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Dealing with Debt Collectors
“I'm paying what I can on my debts, but a debt collector keeps calling, sometimes two or three times a day, insulting me. I've told them that all their yelling isn't going to make me be able to pay . Is there any way to stop the calls?”
“A debt collector left messages with my neighbors, and now he's calling my workplace. I'm scared I'll get fired.”
“A collection agency kept calling me about a debt they said I
owed. I told them it wasn't mine. They were really rude. I asked
for proof, and when they sent the statement, it was for a debt owed by
someone with the same name who lived in another state.”
How Collectors May Contact You
Also, debt collectors may not misrepresent the truth. For example, they may not use a false company or creditor name, or give out untrue credit information about you. They can't falsely imply you've committed a crime, or say you'll be arrested if you don't pay, indicate papers are legal or government documents when they are not, or threaten to garnish your wages or take your home or possessions without a court judgment, except in the cases of federally guaranteed student loans that are in default.
Communicating with the Collector
Getting calls from a debt collector can be stressful. Keep in mind that the collection of a debt is a business transaction. Don't take it personally, and keep conversations on a business level. Don't avoid contact with a collector, as this may only cause increased or more aggressive collection efforts.
If you owe the debt, but do not have money available to pay it, ask the debt collector if you can work out a payment plan. Be honest about what you can afford to pay. If the agency does agree to a new payment plan, get it in writing.
The Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware may be able to help you work out a payment plan. It offers low-cost debt management programs, and many creditors and collection agencies agree to participate with these plans. Call toll-free (800) 642-2227; its website is: www.cccs-inc.org.
Federal law establishes special requirements for debt collection agencies (as opposed to businesses collecting debts owed by their customers).
Within five days after its first contact with you, a collection agency
must send you a written notice of the amount you owe, the name of the
business or lender to whom you owe the debt, and what to do if you believe
you don't owe the money.
If you wish to notify the credit reporting agencies that you dispute
the debt, request a copy of your credit report and follow the procedures
for disputing reported information. Request reports from Equifax at 800-997-2493,
Experian at 888-397-3742, and Trans Union at 800-888-4213.
You can request that a collector not call you at your place of work.
If the debt is being collected by a collection agency, you can send a
letter by registered mail, asking it to stop calling you at work. By
law, it must comply.
If You Have a Complaint
If you believe a collector is harassing you, for example by calling too frequently or at unreasonable hours, or using threatening or abusive language, tell the collector that you believe that what he or she is doing is illegal and that you want them to stop. Tell them that you are keeping notes of the times of the calls and the language used, and that you may file a complaint against them.
If you have a complaint about a collection agency, contact the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Board, 500 N. Calvert St., Room 402, Baltimore, MD 21202; (410) 230-6079. If you have a complaint about the collection actions of a business you dealt with, call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at (410) 528-8662.
If you believe a collector violated the law, you may have a right to sue in court and should contact a lawyer. You may recover money for the damages you suffered, and the debt collector may be liable for court costs and attorneys' fees.
Attorney General of Maryland 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free / TDD: (410) 576-6372