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How can a consumer deal with debt collectors?

When financial problems hit, Massachusetts residents oftentimes consider what steps they could take to overcome these situations. While budgeting and saving is a helpful mechanism, this isn't always a viable option due to tight funds or unemployment. Thus, some consumers face the downsides of consumer debt, which often includes the constant annoyance from debt collection agencies.

How can a consumer deal with debt collectors? Based on current reports from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, more than one in four consumers feel threatened when a debt collector makes contact. Additionally, a national survey found that consumers felt that they were faced with calls that occurred too often, were at odd hours and even contained warnings of jail time or threats. In some cases, some consumers were contacted for debts that weren't even owed. Finally, when consumers claimed that they asked the debt collector to stop contacting them, the request was ignored.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, stated that the debt collection business in a multi-bullion dollar industry that currently affects 70 million consumers across the nation. It was found that, in most cases, consumers were contacted regarding medical and credit card debt. Nonetheless, the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, stated that it is debt collectors that generate the highest number of complaints of any industry. Even though debt collectors are required to comply with consumer protection laws, this doesn't always occur.

Based on these laws, debt collectors cannot contact consumers at inconvenient times and places. This includes early morning calls or calls at work, if they are told not to do so. Debt collectors cannot harass, oppress or abuse consumers, and this includes threats of violence or using obscene language. Additionally, federal laws limit the number of calls a debt collector can place for a specific consumer.

In addition to taking action to report any violations of consumer protection laws, consumers could take action to stop debt collector abuse by filing for bankruptcy. Taking the step to file for personal bankruptcy could be the step to obtain debt relief and a fresh financial start away from consumer debt.

Source: USA Today, "In debt and afraid: dealing with debt collectors," Sarah Skidmore Sell, Jan. 25, 2017

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