Abused by a Debt Collector? Get a Free Lawyer


What's Hot


2 Types of Black Marks Might Vanish From Your Credit File SoonBorrow

6 Ways the Obamacare Overhaul Might Impact Your WalletInsurance

7 Dumb and Costly Moves Homebuyers MakeBorrow

This Free Software Brings Old Laptops Back to LifeMore

Obamacare Replacement Plan Gets ‘F’ Rating from Consumer ReportsFamily

Beware These 12 Common Money MistakesCredit & Debt

21 Restaurants Offering Free Food Right NowSaving Money

17 Ways to Have More Fun for Less MoneySave

House Hunters: Beware of These 6 Mortgage MistakesBorrow

30 Household Uses for Baby OilSave

25 Ways to Spend Less on FoodMore

Nearly Half of Heart-Related Deaths Linked to These 10 Foods and IngredientsFamily

5 Surprising Benefits of Exercising Outdoors in WinterFamily

10 Ways to Save When You’re Making Minimum WageSave

Boost Your Credit Score Fast With These 7 MovesCredit & Debt

7 Painless Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Years EarlierBorrow

The Most Sinful City in the U.S. Is … (Hint: It’s Not Vegas)Family

The True Cost of Bad CreditCredit & Debt

10 Companies With the Best 401(k) PlansGrow

This Scam Now Tops ID Theft as the No. 2 Consumer ComplaintFamily

6 Stores With Awesome Reward ProgramsFamily

6 Ways to Save More at Lowe’s and The Home DepotSave

6 Healthful Treats for Your DogFamily

New Study Ranks the Best States in the U.S.Family

Thousands of Millionaires Moving to 1 Country — and Leaving AnotherGrow

Strapped for College Costs? How to Get the Most From FAFSABorrow

6 Overlooked Ways to Save at Chick-fil-AFamily

Ask Stacy: What’s the Fastest Way to Pay Off My Mortgage?Borrow

Where to Sell Your Stuff for Top DollarAround The House

8 Ways to Get a Good Price on a Shiny New AutoCars

Ask Stacy: How Do I Start Over?Credit & Debt

Secret Cell Plans: Savings Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint Don’t Want You to Know AboutFamily

30 Awesome Things to Do in RetirementCollege

14 Super Smart Ways to Save on TravelSave

The Rich Prefer Modest Cars — Should You Join Them?Cars

You’ll Soon Pay More to Shop at CostcoSave

10 Ways to Save When Your Teen Starts DrivingFamily

Just because you owe money, doesn't mean debt collectors can treat you like a doormat. If they are, you might be able to turn the tables with a free lawyer.

Owning more than you can pay is bad enough. Being badgered, hounded and abused by a debt collector can make your life a living hell.

But if you ever find yourself harassed with dozens of phone calls daily, here’s something you should know. You don’t deserve to be treated like a doormat nor should you tolerate it. More important, if your legal rights are being violated, you might qualify for free legal help to make it stop.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act stipulates what third-party debt collectors can and can’t do when trying to collect. In 2009, the FTC received almost 120,000 complaints about third-party debt collectors: an increase of nearly 50% from 2008. The two most common complaints were phone harassment (34.7%) and obscene, profane or abusive language (13.5%), both violations of the law. And the FTC is taking violations seriously. For example, just yesterday they issued this press release about a million dollar fine levied against one national collection agency.

What should you do if you’re being bullied? First, meet someone who took the bull by the horns: Michelle Vizzini. This Philadelphia woman woke up one morning to find her bank account frozen at the hands of a debt collector for a 13 year old debt she says she doesn’t owe. Watch the short video below, then meet me on the other side for more.

So Michelle found help by following the advice of attorney Craig Kimmel. To recap his advice for dealing with a debt collector:

  • Validate the debt. You have 30-days after being contacted by a debt collector to write a letter requesting verification of the debt. Not doing so right away allows the collector to place negative information on your credit report. Download a sample debt verification letter.
  • Write a cease and desist letter. You can tell the collector not to call or write you; to leave you completely alone. Download a sample cease and desist letter.
  • Talk to a consumer lawyer. Become predator instead of prey. Ask for free legal help and let the attorney charge the collector for fees.

How to get free help

According to attorney Kimmel, if a debt collector violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, they’re liable for damages which could include money and payment of legal fees. So if that debt collector is breaking the rules, they’ll ultimately be paying for your lawyer. And you don’t have to pay a dime up front to find out. You get a free consultation with the lawyer, they ask you what’s happening, and based on your responses he or she may agree to represent you without charge. You’ve lost nothing by talking to them.

Also, keep in mind that this free legal representation has nothing to do with whether or not you owe money, it’s all about whether someone is breaking the law trying to collect it.

So what’s legal and what’s not when it comes to collecting a debt? The list is in black and white in the actual law, on the FTC’s website or even on the websites of lawyers like Craig Kimmel.

The FTC’s list of practices off-limits to debt collectors: below is the list of law violations taken directly from the FTC website.

Harassment. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, they may not:

  • use threats of violence or harm;
  • publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts (but they can give this information to the credit reporting companies);
  • use obscene or profane language; or
  • repeatedly use the phone to annoy someone.

False statements. Debt collectors may not lie when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, they may not:

  • falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives;
  • falsely claim that you have committed a crime;
  • falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company;
  • misrepresent the amount you owe;
  • indicate that papers they send you are legal forms if they aren’t; or
  • indicate that papers they send to you aren’t legal forms if they are.

Debt collectors also are prohibited from saying that:

  • you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt;
  • they’ll seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so; or
  • legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action.

Debt collectors may not:

  • give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company;
  • send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t; or
  • use a false company name.

Unfair practices. Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, they may not:

  • try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt – or your state law – allows the charge;
  • deposit a post-dated check early;
  • take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally; or
  • contact you by postcard.

If you have more questions about dealing with debt collectors, check out this video from the FTC

Avoiding problems by avoiding debt collectors

Although you have rights under the law and potentially free help to enforce them, being in the sights of a debt collector isn’t a fun experience. If at all possible, avoid it. Here are some tips that might help:

  • Avoid collectors by dealing directly with the creditor. Try to work out a manageable payment plan.
  • Find a reputable credit counseling agency. They will help you come up with a budget and make payments. Check out this story we did on credit counseling.
  • Keep copies and records of all your debts. If a question ever arises, you’ll be ready.
  • Keep funds that legally cannot be used for debt payments, like Social Security or disability checks, in their own bank account. If a court order freezes your cash, this separate account should still be available.
  • Whenever you’re in a conflict over a debt (or anything else that concerns the legal world) record conversations (if it’s legal where you live) and take notes: names, dates, times, subjects, what was discussed. This information could prove vital in any dispute.
  • Get everything in writing, especially any agreements you make. This will help avoid misunderstandings over how much you’re supposed to pay and for how long.
  • When corresponding, use Certified Mail.

Bottom line? As I said in the news story above, I’m the last one to suggest you shouldn’t pay your bills. You should. And if you can’t, you should get help, hopefully before debt collectors start harassing you. But no matter what your situation, owing money doesn’t require payment with your dignity.

And for those of you who will respond to this story with some variation of “dead-beats-get-what-they-deserve,” here’s another story you can check out from a few years ago: In this one, a guy who lost his business was told by a debt collector, “You’re not a man, how can you take care of your family”. Watch the 90-second story here.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!

💰🗣📰

Read Next: 8 Great Travel Freebies You Can Get in 2017

Check Out Our Hottest Deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 2,019 more deals!