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How to end harassment from debt-collection agencies

In Texas as elsewhere in the country, many people carry consumer debt. Most are able to pay it off over time, but sometimes unfortunate circumstances lead to debt that cannot be easily paid off. This often leads to harassment from debt-collection agencies.

Creditors should know, however, that anyone who tries to recover debt in the United States is required to follow the guidelines of the Fair Debt Collection Act, and they should keep the following points in mind.

According to the law, a creditor must furnish a validation notice about the debt within five days of first contacting a debtor and inquire about the debtor's plans for payment.

A debtor has up to 30 days to respond to the creditor. If a debtor disagrees with a creditor's assessment of the debt, he or she can send a letter asking the creditor to stop making contact. The letter may only stop further communication; it does not erase the debt.

Creditors cannot make phone calls before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless a debtor grants permission. A debtor can request orally or in writing that the creditor make no workplace contact, and the creditor must comply.

Debt collectors cannot share information with a debtor's family or friends. They can only contact third parties once but only to ask for a debtor's contact information.

In Texas, a debtor can legally record conversations with creditors. This may help later if a debt collector makes threats, uses obscene language or engages in harassment.

A debtor can legally file a complaint against a collector if he or she believes the creditor is acting unethically.

Because state and federal laws pertaining to debt collection are complicated, contacting a lawyer for representation is the wisest move in most cases.

Source: MyFoxAustin.com, "Secrets of debt collection agencies," Andrew Housser, Mar. 14, 2014

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