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7 examples of unfair debt collection practices

You've fallen behind on your debts. Some of them have gone to collections. Now you're starting to get phone calls.

Of course, they're annoying to you. They're frustrating. You didn't want to reach this point. But are they illegal? Below are seven examples of unfair and illegal debt collection practices from the Federal Trade Commission.

1. Lying about who they are.

Collectors must be honest. For instance, they can't call you and say they work for the government to try to intimidate you.

2. Calling too early or too late.

The FTC considers this harassment. Calls should generally be during normal work hours, or close to them.

3. Calling you at work.

While they have to call during the day, the window may realistically be small. If you tell them not to call you at work, they can't. You can tell them orally, on the phone or you can write a letter to the same end, keeping your wishes on record and in writing.

4. Threatening you.

It's one thing to call and ask for the money that you owe. However, they can't demand it to the point that they're verbally threatening you or threatening your physical safety. They also can't make threats that go beyond what they're legally allowed to do, such as threats regarding the seizing of your assets. That's not to say assets can't get taken, but they're only allowed to tell you about what the law permits, not threaten you with false claims.

5. Telling you that you're breaking the law.

Not paying your debts doesn't mean you've broken the law. Collectors can't lie and say that you're a criminal, insinuating that you could go to jail if you don't cooperate.

6. Using profane language.

The collector can't curse you out on the phone. They have stressful jobs. It may be a tense conversation since you're not thrilled to hear from them. Regardless, they have to maintain a professional attitude and cannot attack you on the phone.

7. Telling you that you owe an inaccurate amount.

They can't misrepresent it to be higher or lower than what you really owe. Both could be advantageous to them. For instance, telling you that you owe more than you do could result in over-payment and more income for the collections company. Telling you that you owe less could be done to trick you into paying a portion, after which they'll contact you again for the rest.

As a consumer, you do have a fair amount of rights that the law guarantees you and protects. This remains true, even when you have not paid your debts on time, and collections companies cannot breach these rights. It's crucial to know where you stand and that the law is on your side.

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