FTC Staff Attorney Gives Advice to Consumers About Communicating with Debt Collectors

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Earlier this week, Dan Dwyer, Staff Attorney, Division of Financial Practices, FTC, posted a blog to help consumers understand how to communicate with debt collectors. Here’s what he suggests:

Debt collectors make up to one billion contacts with consumers each year. It’s their job to make sure they’re collecting from the right people. But sometimes, they reach the wrong person. Other times, they’re actually part of a fake debt collection scam.

If you don’t recognize a debt, here’s what you can do:

Find out who you’re dealing with. Ask for the collector’s name, the company’s name, and its address and phone number. Legitimate collectors will provide this information.

Don’t give additional personal information. The collector might ask you to confirm personal information. If the collector has the wrong information, like an address or phone number you’ve never used, don’t correct the mistake with the right information. And don’t give any other personal information. If it’s not your debt, but the collector now has the right personal information for you, it could be harder for you to dispute the debt later.

Refuse to discuss the debt until you get a “validation notice.”Collectors must send you a written notice. It tells you how much money you owe, the name of the creditor, and what to do if you don’t think you owe the money. This notice might help you figure out if you owe the debt.

Do your own detective work. Reach out to the company the collector says is the original creditor. They might help you figure out if the debt is legitimate – and if this collector has the right to collect the debt. Also, get your free, annual credit report online or at 877-322-8228 and see if the debt shows up there.

Dispute the debt in writing. If you think you don’t owe some – or all – of the debt, or you just don’t recognize it, send the collector a letter disputing it. Be as specific as possible about why you think the debt is wrong – but give as little personal information as possible. Once you get the validation notice, you have 30 days to send this letter.

By law, the collector then must stop contacting you – though the debt doesn’t go away. But, if the collector sends you written verification of the debt, they can start contacting you again.

And, if there’s incorrect information on your credit report, dispute that, too. You can use these sample letters, using the address given in your credit report.

For more, see our debt collection page.

insideARM Perspective

This sounds awfully familiar. Last month, timed to coincide with the FTC’s third Debt Collection Dialogue in Atlanta, the Consumer Relations Consortium released a joint education piece with consumer group Consumer Action, entitled “When a Collector Calls: An Insider’s Guide to Responding to Debt Collectors.”

We are pleased to see alignment with the FTC on how consumers can approach communicating with legitimate collectors, and how to recognize scams.

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Posted in Collection Laws and Regulations, Featured Post, FTC .

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  • avatar bill-jones says:

    …..Nomorobo – enough said

  • avatar dave-rainbolt36 says:

    what concerns me is that the statements are not clearly accurate, and contributes to a significant increase in complaints and lawsuits when the government issues these statements to consumers – perhaps they need a compliance officer to oversee what they actually say. is very misleading the way this is structured.

  • avatar Marc Johnston says:

    Yes, its great to see the alignment with the FTC, but I have to agree with Dave.The transalation of Dan Dwyer’s blog is “dispute, challenge, refuse to provide or confirm information (including information that is legitimately requested to properly authenticate or establish the consumer’s identity) and generally make it as hard as posssible on the debt collector to do their job, even when they are doing it legitimately.

    This is not a blog about “how to communicate with debt collectors”. This is a blog about how to beat around the bush until they give up or decide to pursue other remedies to collect the debt. It is irresponsibly written and most definately contributes to increases in complaints and potentially, lawsuits. Articles like this create the perception that ALL debt collectors are scammers attempting to collect on fake debts.

    Considering the number of complaints filed against debt collectors every year, and the attention they draw, I think people get it.

  • avatar Steven King says:

    What concerns me is the absence of commentary on how a consumer should respond if they do recognize the debt and know it is unpaid. The article suggests that the FTC is commenting on how a consumer should communicate with a Debt Collector. Should the proper way to handle communications when a debt is legally owed not be equally importance? Maybe the FTC would want to encourage consumers to fulfill their financial obligations. That they would state out of those billion communications, an extremely small percentage of them are fraudulent. This article makes it sound like a consumer has just as good a chance of being called by a fraudulent bill collector as they would a legitimate one which is clearly not the case.

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