When Creditors Call, You Have Rights

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If you are being harassed by bill collectors, there may be something you can do about it under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (the ACT). This ACT is a federal law designed to protect you from outside bill collectors. An outside bill collector is someone, other than the person to whom you owe money, who is trying to get you to pay the debt.

Example:

If you owe money to a hospital and now ABC Collection Agency, Inc. is trying to collect that money, ABC Collection Agency, Inc. is an outside bill collector and the ACT applies.

If you bought a car financed through GMAC and now GMAC is trying to collect the money, this is not an outside bill collector and the ACT does not apply.

A recent change in the law provides that attorneys are also covered by the ACT, meaning that when they are collecting a bill from a client, you have the same rights outlined in the ACT.

If you are being harassed about a bill but the ACT does not apply, you should contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General's Office in Frankfort by calling their toll free number at 1-800-432-9257.

YOU HAVE RIGHTS UNDER THE FAIR DEBT COLLECTIONS PRACTICES ACT

If the ACT applies to you, you have the following rights:

  1. An outside debt collector cannot tell your neighbors or employers that you owe a debt.
  2. An outside debt collector cannot contact your employer more than once (unless your employer asks him to) and, even on that one contact, can only ask how to get in touch with you.
  3. An outside debt collector cannot call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
  4. An outside debt collector cannot call you at work if your employer does not want you to receive personal calls and you tell the debt collector this.
  5. An outside debt collector cannot write or call you if you tell them not to call or write.

YOU CAN ENFORCE YOUR RIGHTS:

  1. If you are being bothered by an outside bill collector, you can write the debt collectors and tell them to not contact you anymore. (Keep a copy of the letter). We offer an interactive form to help you create a "stop contact" letter to send to the collection agency.
  2. After you write them, the bill collector can write one more letter to tell you what they are doing, but they must then quit writing and calling you.
  3. When you write the debt collector, always put a date on the letter and keep a copy of it.
  4. It is also a good idea to tell the Post Office you wish to send it "certified mail, return receipt requested". It will cost a few dollars to send it this way, but you will have proof that the company received your letter.
  5. After you send this letter, it is still possible the company to whom you owe money will to sue you. However, if you cannot pay the bill, they will probably sue you sooner or later anyway, so it is usually best to go on and send the letter. If you are sued, you will receive court papers from the sheriff.

WHAT CAN THE COMPANY DO TO ME?

If your car or furniture is collateral ("security") for the debt, the debt collector can take these goods if:

  1. You let them have them.
  2. They file a lawsuit against you and get a court order or judgment allowing them to take the property.

If they come to your house and try to take your property without your consent, in most cases the debt collector must sue you and win before they can take the property. The property can then only be taken as the result of a court order.

WHAT IF I AM SUED?

If you are sued, contact a lawyer immediately. Never ignore court papers and never contact the person suing you without getting an attorney and filing an answer. If you don't, a judgment will be entered against you.

WHAT IF THE BILL COLLECTION CONTINUES TO BOTHER ME?

If a bill collector continues to bother you after you have written them a letter asking them not to contact you again, contact an attorney because you may have a claim against the bill collector for violating the ACT.



Reviewed August 2009