Dear Consumer Ed:
A debt collection agency has been harassing me about a retail debt that was incurred many years ago. They are calling relatives and my employer and going into details about the debt, providing home addresses and vehicles my children own. They are threatening to send legal documents to my employer even though there has been no filing with the courts. When I asked the caller to provide the spelling of the company name and the address, the woman would not provide the information and proceeded to yell, curse and insult me. Aren’t these actions illegal? I just want to get them to stop calling me and others about this. What can I do?
Consumer Ed says:
This behavior by the debt collection agency violates several provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. A debt collector may not communicate with your relatives or your employer about your debt without your consent. The debt collector is required to disclose its identity, and is prohibited from using obscene or profane language and engaging any person in a telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number. A debt collector may not threaten to take any legal action that it does not intend to take and/or may not legally take.
Additionally, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act gives consumers the right to request and obtain validation of debts and the right to dispute debts. Within five days of the initial contact, a debt collector must provide a written notice containing the amount of the debt, the name of the creditors to whom the debt is owed, a statement offering to provide the addresses of original creditor, and a statement outlining that the debtor has 30 days from receipt of the letter to dispute the debt. When the debtor receives this written letter, they have 30 days to respond with a written dispute. Once this dispute is submitted, the collector must cease all contact with the debtor until they are able to provide validation of the debt.
Since the debt collector refuses to provide the company name or written address, making it impossible for you to make a formal written request that they stop contacting you and refrain from contacting your employer, your best recourse is to submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and/or the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. You may also contact an attorney to obtain further advice about your private legal rights.
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