Get debt collectors off your back

Buried in debt

TEXT OF STORY

Tess Vigeland: And finally, let's leap from the fun of holiday travel to the horror of debt. More specifically debt collectors.

The Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with a collection company in Texas called LTD Financial Services. The agency said LTD illegally harassed debtors. The company forked over almost a million and half bucks in the deal.

So we called up Lauren Saunders -- she's an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center -- and we asked her when it comes to debt collection, what exactly is illegal harassment?


Lauren Saunders: Abusive telephone calls, threats, use of obscene or profane language, calling friends, neighbors, employers or threathening to do so. It's also illegal to threaten somebody to throw them in jail, to claim that they've committed a crime and they'll be reported.

What collectors can do is call, offer you repayment options and explain what you owe and why.

They can also take you to court. Which leads to question number twp: why bother with harassment?

Saunders: Well, first of all it's a lot cheaper to call you up or put you on an auto-dialer than it is to actually hire a lawyer and go to court. Also, many debt collectors don't have sufficient proof to go to court and actually get a judgement.

Of course, you probably can't afford to drag a collector to court, either. So what do you do if you're a victim of harassment?

Saunders: You should definitely complain to the Federal Trade Commission, which is right now accepting public comments on debt collection abuses. They're still collecting comments even though the November 9 deadline has passed. You can also complain to a state agency that regulates debt collectors.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.

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