Are you getting collection calls from a company you do not owe? How to make them stop can be quite simple or very difficult; it depends on who is calling, a creditor or a debt collector, and why they are calling.
Creditor vs. Debt Collector – Who is Calling Me?
A creditor is someone that a consumer owes an original debt to for goods or services they purchased directly from that person or company. Creditors may include:
- Credit card companies
- Healthcare providers
- Plumbers, accountants, and other professionals or tradesmen
- Landlords or rental companies
- Banks, mortgage companies, and financial institutions that provide consumer loans
- Governmental entities to whom you owe money for fines, fees, or taxes
Basically, a creditor is someone who provided you with goods or services before receiving payment in exchange for the promise what you would later pay for the goods or services, or a governmental entity to which you owe a fine, agency fee, courts costs, or some type of tax.
A debt collector is someone that a creditor hires to collect a debt for them. A debt collector is defined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) as:
“Any person who regularly collects, or attempts to collect, consumer debts for another person or institution or uses some name other than its own when collecting its own consumer debts.”
Determining who is calling you is the first step in making the calls stop. If a creditor is calling you and you have paid the bill in full, you should attempt to resolve the matter by asking them to look up your account and go over any payments or charges with you. If they are calling the wrong person, let them know that you are not the person they are attempting to contact and provide them with your full name and address. If they do not agree that they have the wrong person or telephone number, or on the amount you owe or do not owe, ask for their mailing address and send them a letter outlining why you believe their information is wrong and asking them to stop collection attempts. You should also mail a copy of your letter to the Federal Trade Commission at 6th and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20850. But what if the calls are coming from a debt collector?
Debt Collectors – Why Are They Calling Me?
Debt collection agencies do one thing - they take money to collect on debts. Debt collectors usually work on a contingency; which means that they receive a percentage of the amount they are able to collect from the debtor. This gives them incentive to aggressively pursue a consumer to collect on the debt, because if they do not collect, they do not get paid.
How Can a Debt Collector Attempt to Collect Money I Do Not Owe Them?
Creditors oftentimes enter into contracts with debt collectors to provide them with debt collection services. They collect on debts owed to the creditor in exchange for a flat or hourly fee, or a percentage of what they are able to collect. This enables the debt collector to act on behalf of the original creditor and make any legal attempts necessary to collect on the debt. So while you may have never agreed to pay the debt collector or have any kind of contract with them, they are allowed to collect on the debt you owe the creditor because they were hired by the creditor to collect it.
What Are Debt Collectors Allowed to Do When Collecting a Debt?
Debt Collectors are covered by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which prohibits them from using unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices when attempting to collect a debt. Some of these prohibited practices are specifically mentioned in the Act, such as:
- Calling a consumer before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
- Using obscene or abusive language
- Threatening to take actions it is not legally allowed to take or does not intend to take
- Telling consumers they will be arrested if they do not pay the debt
- Discussing a debt with third parties
- Allowing a consumers phone to ring repeatedly
- Contacting a consumer at work when it knows the employer does not allow personal calls
- Committing or threatening to commit violence against a consumer in an attempt to collect a debt
- Falsely implying they are employed by or affiliated with a government agency
- Reporting or threatening to report false credit information
Other unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices are prohibited by the Act, even if not specifically mentioned in the law.
What if the Debt Collector Got Inaccurate Information from the Creditor?
There are times when a debt collector receives inaccurate or false information from a creditor, such as the legal name, phone number, or address of the debtor, the amount of the debt, or the status of the debt (whether it has been paid in full or in part). This is generally not done on purpose but can become annoying and abusive to a consumer if they are being harassed to pay a debt and they are not the person who owes it or it has already been paid. If this happens to you, ask the debt collector for their mailing address and mail a letter requesting verification of the debt and cessation of the collection attempts. You should also mail a copy of your letter to the Federal Trade Commission at 6th and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20850.
I Have Done All This and The Collection Calls Won't Stop!
If you have written letters, requested information, and told the collectors you do not owe them money and stop calling until you were blue in the face and the calls continue, you may want to consider hiring a consumer lawyer. An experience consumer attorney can not only make the calls stop, but they might even be able to get the collector to pay you!
If you are getting collection calls from companies that you do not owe, contact our office at 1-800-219-3577, for a free, no obligation consultation.