Consumer Publications List
Dealing with Debt
what I can on my debts, but a debt collector keeps calling, sometimes two or
three times a day, insulting me. I've told them that all their yelling isn't
going to make me be able to pay . Is there any way to stop the
collector left messages with my neighbors, and now he's calling my workplace.
I'm scared I'll get fired.”
agency kept calling me about a debt they said I owed. I told them it wasn't
mine. They were really rude. I asked for proof, and when they sent the
statement, it was for a debt owed by someone with the same name who lived in
another state.”If you fall behind paying
your bills, or if an error is made in your account, a business may try to
collect the debt from you, or may hire a collection agency to collect the debt.
However, both federal and state law require businesses and debt collection
agencies to follow certain rules. These laws are intended to stop deceptive and
unfair debt collection practices, and to protect you from the kind of
harassment, abuse and invasion of privacy described above. For
good information from the Federal Government on debt collectors, go
Collectors May Contact YouCollectors may contact you in person,
by mail, telephone, telegram or fax. However, they may not:
• contact you at
unreasonable places or times unless you agree;• contact you so often as to
constitute harassment;• contact you at work if they know your employer
disapproves of personal calls;• reveal your indebtedness to anyone except
you and your lawyer in most cases,although they can contact others to
find out where you live and work;• threaten violence or harm against you,
your reputation or property;• use obscene or grossly abusive language;•
advertise the fact that you owe a debt; or• make you accept collect calls,
or violate your privacy by contacting you by postcard
collectors may not misrepresent the truth. For example, they may not use a false
company or creditor name, or give out untrue credit information about you. They
can't falsely imply you've committed a crime, or say you'll be arrested if you
don't pay, indicate papers are legal or government documents when they are not,
or threaten to garnish your wages or take your home or possessions without a
court judgment, except in the cases of federally guaranteed student loans that
are in default.
Communicating with the
Getting calls from
a debt collector can be stressful. Keep in mind that the collection of a debt is
a business transaction. Don't take it personally, and keep conversations on a
business level. Don't avoid contact with a collector, as this may only cause
increased or more aggressive collection efforts.
If you owe the
debt, but do not have money available to pay it, ask the debt collector if you
can work out a payment plan. Be honest about what you can afford to pay. If the
agency does agree to a new payment plan, get it in writing.
The Consumer Credit
Counseling Service of Maryland and Delaware may be able to help you work out a
payment plan. It offers low-cost debt management programs, and many creditors
and collection agencies agree to participate with these plans. Call toll-free
(800) 642-2227; its website is: www.cccs-inc.org.
Rules Applying to Collection Agencies
establishes special requirements for debt collection agencies (as opposed to
businesses collecting debts owed by their customers).
Within five days
after its first contact with you, a collection agency must send you a written
notice of the amount you owe, the name of the business or lender to whom you owe
the debt, and what to do if you believe you don't owe the money.If you dispute the debt
or you need more information about it, send the collection agency a letter by
certified mail, return receipt requested, within 30 days. Keep a copy of the
letter, as well as any other correspondence with the collector. If it's a
dispute letter, send a copy to the Maryland Collection Agency Licensing Board.
The agency may not contact you again until it has sent you proof of the debt or
sent the information you requested.
If you wish to
notify the credit reporting agencies that you dispute the debt, request a copy
of your credit report and follow the procedures for disputing reported
information. Request reports from Equifax at 800-997-2493, Experian at
888-397-3742, and Trans Union at 800-888-4213.You can ask a debt
collection agency to stop contacting you by sending it a letter. Once it
receives your letter, it may not contact you again–except to acknowledge there
will be no further contact or the creditor intends to take some specific action,
such as a collection action through the courts. Understand that this only stops
the agency from contacting you. The agency can still sue you in court. If it
gets a judgment, your wages could be garnished. Also, it can continue sending
negative information to the credit reporting agencies.
You can request
that a collector not call you at your place of work. If the debt is being
collected by a collection agency, you can send a letter by registered mail,
asking it to stop calling you at work. By law, it must comply.
If You Have
If you believe a
collector is harassing you, for example by calling too frequently or at
unreasonable hours, or using threatening or abusive language, tell the collector
that you believe that what he or she is doing is illegal and that you want them
to stop. Tell them that you are keeping notes of the times of the calls and the
language used, and that you may file a complaint against them.
If you have a
complaint about a collection agency, contact the Maryland Collection Agency
Licensing Board, 500 N. Calvert St., Room 402, Baltimore, MD 21202; (410)
230-6079. If you have a complaint about the collection actions of a business you
dealt with, call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at (410)
If you believe a
collector violated the law, you may have a right to sue in court and should
contact a lawyer. You may recover money for the damages you suffered, and the
debt collector may be liable for court costs and attorneys' fees.
Maryland Attorney General's Consumer Protection
DivisionConsumer hotline: (410) 528-8662 or 1 (888) 743-0023 toll-free
200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202
410-576-6300 / 1-888-743-0023 toll-free / TDD: 410-576-6372