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What can be done to stop debt collectors from contacting me?

Creditors have the legal right to contact debtors via various means, including through mail and over the phone. Debts that collectors might go after include unsecured credit cards, medical bills, home loans and auto loans. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act determines what creditors and debt collection agencies can and cannot do. When a consumer defaults on a debt that they owe, the creditor can hire a debt collection agency to collect on that debt.

The Federal Trade Commission is the government organization responsible for ensuring that collection agencies follow the FDCPT. This Act states that those attempting to collect on consumer debt do not contact debtors outside of specific areas and that collection agencies cannot contact debtors at work. Collection agencies can contact others in an attempt to find an individual's current address or contact information, but those agencies cannot talk with anyone other than the debtor's attorney about the debt.

Harassment from debt collection agencies and creditors can take several forms. This can include a representative from an agency who calls an individual prior to 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. and agencies that call someone's home, work or cell phone number beyond a certain number of times every day.

While the government enacted the FDCPT to prevent creditor harassment, the problem still exists. If a creditor contacts someone about an alleged debt, the consumer can do several things.

A consumer can write the creditor a letter to ask for more information about the debt and proof that they are the debtor. They may also write a letter and ask the creditor to cease contact. That creditor must then stop contacting the debtor, though they still may file a lawsuit to attempt to collect. An individual also has the right to contact the government or an attorney for additional help.

Source: Federal Trade Commission, "Debt Collection", December 29, 2014

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