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Don't Deal with a Debt Collector Until You've Read This.

The phone rings, and someone tells you to pay an old medical bill – right now. You don't even know if it's yours! Although it may be fun to place the caller on a fake-hold by putting your phone next to a speaker blaring obnoxious music, there are more effective ways to deal. This is what you should know:

1. Debt collectors have many restrictions. While collectors have the right to collect on a debt you legitimately owe, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and other laws govern how they can go about doing so. When it comes to calls, collectors are prohibited from:

  • Using abusive or obscene language.

  • Harassing you with repeated calls.

  • Calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you agree.

  • Calling you at work if you have asked them to stop.

  • Talking to anyone but you or your attorney about the debt.

  • Misrepresenting the amount of your debt.

  • Falsely claiming to be an attorney or a law enforcement official.

  • Falsely claiming to be a credit bureau representative.

  • Threatening to sue unless they actually plan to take legal action.

  • Threatening to garnish wages or seize property unless they actually intend to do it.

2. You have rights. If a collector has violated the law, you can sue so long as it’s within one year of the date the violation. You’ll need proof that the collector broke the law, though, so be sure to keep records of your communications with the collector.

3. Old debts expire. Each state has laws specifying how long a collector has to sue you over a debt. In Florida, the time limit to file a lawsuit is 5 years if the debt is based on a written contract and 4 years if its based on a verbal agreement. BUT, be aware that you can inadvertently restart the clock by paying part of the debt or agreeing over the phone that it’s yours. Always verify the details before saying it's yours.

4. There are tons of scammers out there. Don't be fooled by a fake collector! Be sure to ask the caller for his or her name, company, street address, telephone number and a professional license number.

5. Ignoring a debt can have big consequences. While it iz super tempting to send a collector straight to voicemail, it won't make the debt go away. A collector can report outstanding accounts to the consumer credit bureaus, which can hurt your credit.

DISCLAIMER: Jackson Lee | PA appreciates you visiting this website. Please remember that this information is based on general facts and might not apply to specific factual situations. Please do not consider this information to be specific legal advice. Always consult a lawyer to apply the law to your specific facts and state.

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