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Frequently Asked Questions

Debt Collection Abuse & Debt Collector Harassment

You likely have questions about debt collection harassment. For a few brief answers to common questions, see our answers below.

Who is a debt collector?
A debt collector is a person who regularly attempts to collect debts. Collection agents are debt collectors and so are lawyers who regularly attempt to collect debts.  The original creditor (credit card company, bank, hospital, etc.) is usually not a debt collector.

How can an attorney help?
At the Law Office of Joseph Mauro, we can defend  your rights if you are being illegally harassed by a debt collector. Additionally, we offer intelligent legal guidance to consumers concerning what to do if you are being harassed, what to do if you have been sued, what to do if your bank account has been frozen, how to find a debt collection harassment attorney, and information about credit repair and reports. We can also help you determine whether or not bankruptcy is a viable option for you.

Can a debt collector contact a consumer at work?
A debt collector is allowed to contact a consumer at work. However, if the collector knows that the consumer's employer does not approve of such contact, or if the collector knows that it is inconvenient for the consumer to receive calls at work, then the collector is not permitted to call the consumer at work. If a consumer notifies the debt collector that their employer does not allow them to be contacted at work, or that it is inconvenient, then the collector must stop contacting the consumer at work.

Are debt collectors allowed to contact a consumer's friends, neighbors, or relatives about a debt?
No. Debt collectors are not allowed to contact third parties about a consumer's debt except to try to find out the consumer's telephone number, or where the consumer lives or works. If the debt collector already knows how to contact the consumer, then they are not allowed to contact any third party at all. Debt collectors are not permitted to tell third parties that they are trying to collect a debt.

Are there certain times when creditors are not supposed to call? 
A debt collector is only allowed to call between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.  The time is based on the time zone where the consumer is located.

What if I don't believe I owe a debt?  What can I do?
Dispute the debt.  Send the debt collector a letter telling them that you dispute the debt and demand to see paperwork that verifies that you owe the money. 

What things must a debt collector tell a consumer?
The law requires that the debt collectors notify consumers about their rights. Within five days of the first time the debt collector contacts a consumer, the collector must send the consumer a notice informing them of the amount of the debt, and the name of the current creditor. If a consumer sends a written demand to the debt collector within 30 days from receiving their notice, the debt collector must also provide the consumer with evidence that the debt is owed and the name of the original creditor. If the debt collector does not send the requested information, then that debt collector is not allowed to try to collect this debt any longer.

What will it cost me to hire an attorney to bring a lawsuit against a debt collector?
Generally, the consumer is not asked to pay any upfront fees or costs. If the Law Office of Joseph Mauro agrees to bring a case on your behalf, the representation is generally handled on a contingency basis. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) includes a provision that allows a successful consumer to have the debt collector pay the consumer's attorneys fees and costs.

Can I record a debt collector?
It depends on where you are, and the state where the debt collector is located. You should not record a debt collector until you are sure that it is legal. You should check with a qualified New York debt collection harassment attorney before recording.

Should I file for bankruptcy?
Filing bankruptcy can be a very effective way of stopping debt collection harassment, but it may be completely unnecessary, and may do more harm than good. You should not file bankruptcy just to stop the harassing debt collection calls. There are other ways to stop them. Bankruptcy has some serious downsides including (including loss of property and severe impact on your credit score), and you shouldn't file bankruptcy just to stop debt collectors from calling.  Bankruptcy may make sense for you, but you should do it for the right reasons.  Meet with a competent attorney personally to review whether under your circumstances bankruptcy is the right move for you and your family. You should go over your finances in detail with an attorney to determine whether bankruptcy makes sense for you and your family.

What are debt settlement, credit management, debt management, and credit counseling?
Consumers should be VERY careful about signing up for debt settlement programs. These companies and programs use names like "debt resolution," "credit management," and "debt management."  While companies that offer such services use different names to describe what they do, the general concept is the same.  Their pitch is that if you give them money, they will work out deals with each one of the companies you owe. They will often tell you that they have relationships with all the credit card companies (and debt collectors) and that for a small fee they will be able to get you good settlements with the people you owe money to. They will often tell you that you will only have to make one lump sum payment to them each month, and from that payment they will take care of all the companies to who you owe money. The problem of course is that they are often lying, or not telling you the whole truth. Credit card companies and debt collectors have no obligation to even speak to these companies and often times refuse to do so. 

So, while you may believe that all of your debt are being handled by this credit management company you hired, that may in fact not be the case. Many of your creditors may not be getting paid, and you may be continuing to accrue interest on your debt, and moving closer towards getting sued. Additionally, these companies often charge upfront fees or take a large percentage of the monthly payments you make; which leaves less money to go towards you're the payment of your debt.  The Federal Trade Commission has issued new regulations that take effect in October 2010 that seek to stop the massive consumer fraud involved with these credit management/debt settlement type companies.

You should be extremely careful about signing up for any of these services.

If you have additional questions, or if you would like more information on the topics discussed, please contact a New York debt collection abuse lawyer to get your questions answered.

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