Though the nation continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic strain, news outlets report that not all industries face hard times. A Los Angeles Times column bore the headline “Debt Collectors See Coronavirus as a Golden Opportunity.”
The legislative director for the National Assn. of Consumer Advocates, Christine Hines, predicts that “debt collection will only intensify in the coming months” as millions scramble to pay their bills despite job losses or pay cuts.
Hines added that “the pandemic didn’t change how abusive debt collectors are, it just shows that they are capable of doing even more harm to vulnerable consumers than we thought.”
Consumer debt is at a record high, unemployment is at 13.3 percent and around four million workers have had their hours and pay reduced.
In tough times, it’s important to remember that consumers have rights that must be respected by debt collectors. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) describes legal limits placed on collectors. For instance, they can’t call you before 8 am or after 9 at night – unless you give them permission to do so. They are also forbidden from calling you at work – if you tell them you aren’t allowed to get calls there.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says on its website that debt collectors are also forbidden from the following:
- Threatening you with harm
- Using obscene/profane language
- Misrepresenting the amount owed
- Falsely claiming to be lawyers or law enforcement offices
- Claiming they’ll take legal action against you if it’s not true
If you are being subjected to abusive debt collection, the FTC also says this: “If an attorney is representing you, the debt collector has to contact the attorney.”