Nothing is worse than trying to pay off debt, only to fall into a faux debt collection scam, leaving you—and your finances–in worse condition than before.
“Unscrupulous scams hurt consumers and unnecessarily impedes legitimate debt collection efforts,” says ACA International CEO Pat Morris. “The recovery of consumer debt is vitally important to our local, state and national economies. Those who purposely violate the law to exploit consumers should be held fully accountable for their actions.”
In response to recent news reports about debt collection scams, ACA International offers the following tips for consumers to identify legitimate collection activities.
In addition to federal and state regulatory oversight of the debt collection industry and state law, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) outlines several important items that consumers can use to discern a legitimate attempt to recover a debt. Generally:
A debt collector may not contact a consumer at times known to be inconvenient to the consumer – assumed to be contact prior to 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. in your time zone. Further, a debt collector may not contact a consumer at his/her place of employment if they know that such contact is prohibited by the employer or consumer.
A debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of the debt, with anyone other than the consumer in question or his or her attorney (or the consumer’s spouse unless prohibited by state law).
For debt collection communications, a debt collector must disclose its identity to the consumer and notify the consumer that the communication is from a debt collector, and—in the initial communication—that any information obtained will be used to effect collection of the debt.
A debt collector may not make false representations and may not threaten to take action (e.g., lawsuit, jail, garnishment, etc.) against a consumer if it doesn’t actually intend to seek such action.
A debt collector must notify consumers of their right to dispute the validity of the debt, in part or in full, with the debt collector. The notice is required to be sent by debt collectors within five days of the initial communication with the consumer. The consumer has 30-days to request verification of the debt from the debt collector.
If the consumer disputes the validity of the debt within the 30-day time period, a debt collector must cease collection of the debt until it provides verification of the debt.
Consumers should also take great care when giving out personal information including a credit card, bank account or Social Security number until certain of the authenticity of the other party.
Consumers should monitor their credit report, as well as accounts and immediately report any suspicious or unauthorized purchases to the bank or credit card provider. If a consumer believes his/her identity has been stolen, [s]he should contact the local police department and visit http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft for information on what to do.
“Debt collectors are not an enemy of consumers,” Morris said. “We are advocates for protecting consumer rights while balancing the ability to recover rightfully owed obligations that maintain America’s credit-based economy.”