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About those debt collectors: Consumers should have a plan

When queried by a media enterprise about behavioral practices in the debt collection industry, an official with one collection company responded by saying that the overriding goal in her field is "to help the consumer."

Really?

Millions of consumers across the country would likely challenge that statement and counter that creditor harassment seems a far more pronounced business objective for many collection companies.

A recent account of one man's interaction with a collector working with an agency in Florida is quite representative of the tales that many people across the country are relating.

That consumer says that he was so berated over the phone that he had to hang up. The vitriol -- including shouts and threats -- coming from the other end of the phone was so extreme that the consumer flatly doubted that he was dealing with a legitimate collector.

Unfortunately, he was.

What can a harassed -- and, often, frightened and overwhelmed -- person do when being badgered by a debt collector?

First, is it imperative for any consumer to know that there are laws against harassment. Collectors must identify themselves. They cannot use abusive language or threaten legal action unless they intend to follow through. A consumer has a right to solicit details regarding an alleged debt and to tell a collector to stop personal contacts.

Regarding that latter point, a "stop contact" request could result in a collector following through with legal action in the event that there is a legitimate reason for doing so.

Given that potentiality, many consumers might find that a smart move is to contact an experienced debt relief attorney for advice. Strong legal advocacy can go far toward eliminating harassing debt-collection efforts and promoting a client's best interests when interacting with an overly forceful creditor.

Source: Great Bend Tribune, "What you should know about debt collectors," Bill Gephardt, May 2, 2014

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