Your Rights with Debt Collectors

Do you have debt collectors after you? If you do Clark Howard did a piece about debt collectors, your rights, their rights, and what you should and should not do. Here is an excerpt from that article:

Listener complaints about debt collectors are spiking again as the industry’s bad guys go out of control. And Clark knows whereof he speaks; debt collection is a job he worked through grad school!

Many debt collectors do their job respectfully. Unfortunately, many others don’t. The latter ones will flout the law and even hassle a family member over someone else’s debt.

According to The Houston Chronicle, one person was harangued for a relative’s debt and told they would be jailed! That individual hired a lawyer, sued the collection agency and won a huge judgment.

There are only 2 circumstances when you may have an obligation for the debt of relative. The first is if you co-sign for the debt. The second is if you live in a community property state, in which case you can be responsible for your spouse’s debt.

Community property states include Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

But otherwise, don’t let them intimidate you into paying a relative’s debt.

Also, know the statute of limitations in your state. This length of time pertaining to the legal enforcement of a debt can be anywhere from 3 years to a much longer period in a handful of states.

And if a collector intimidates, harasses, cusses or threatens jail, be sure to record the phone call.

The Houston Chronicle also reports that lawsuits against collectors were up 60% over the past year. It’s not a question of whether you owe, it is a question of what collectors are permitted to do to collect on that debt. Here are a few other pointers for staying safe:

• Never give your checking account number over the phone. There are no exceptions here. The collector will empty your account within minutes.
• Never agree to any payment unless stated in writing that it will be considered payment in full.
• Never pay anything against an old debt that’s outside of statute. Any payment may be legally interpreted as a reaffirmation of the debt.

Legitimate collectors will be respectful and decent in their dealings with you. Beware of those who are not. And do not be intimated into paying the debt of a stranger.

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