published Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Phillips: Fair debt collection rules spare you harsh ruses

by Ellen Phillips

Q: What advice can you give me about dealing with debt collectors? — Donnie Don’t-Owe

A: Dear Mr. Don’t: Even though a former Consumer Watch column specified just what debt collectors can and cannot do according to the federal government, these economic times mandate another look at these folks and their professional and sometimes-not-so-nice habits.

We’ll start with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (or, as I like to call them “resistant rules for the righteous”). According to this law, debt collectors and collection agencies are not allowed to:

  1. Harass you with repetitious, anonymous, or collect calls;

  2. Threaten violence, use abusive language, or intimidate you into believing that your property can be snatched without appropriate court action;

  3. Lie and say they are someone other than who they actually are (for example, have someone call and tell you he represents a company’s legal department);

  4. Call you before 8 a.m., at work, or after 9 p.m. at home;

  5. Misconstrue the amount of money you owe (creditors can add late charges and penalties, but if you don’t agree with the bottom line, dispute the charges and ask for a fuller accounting before paying); and

  6. Mail you postcards, since doing so violates your protected right to privacy.

While the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does apply to those who collect legitimately on behalf of others, if you’re being harassed then tell these bozos not to contact you again.

If they continue to do so, report them to the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission ( and to your state’s attorney general (

Next week we’ll see what these folks won’t tell us but what we need to know.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business.

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