Debt buyers purchase charged off debts that creditors have not been able to collect on. In some instances, debt buyers have illegally attempted to collect on debts that have actually been settled or paid off. They have hounded people for debts they never owed, and threatened victims of identity theft for payment of debts incurred by the thieves who stole the victim’s identity. Abuses like these led Attorney General Josh Stein to work with the North Carolina General Assembly to pass the Consumer Economic Protection Act of 2009.
Debt buyers are now subject to the same laws that govern debt collection agencies. In addition, before they can attempt to collect they must prove that they have the right to enforce the debt and be able to verify the amount owed.
There are rules that debt buyers must follow when trying to collect on a debt.
Debt buyers may not:
- Use profanity or threaten you with violence.
- Tell you that you will be arrested if you don’t pay.
- Pretend to be attorneys or government representatives.
- Tell your employer or others about your debts.
- Pretend that they are contacting you for other reasons.
- Contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you agree.
- Garnish your wages.
- File or threaten to file a lawsuit that would be in violation of the statute of limitations.
Debt buyers are allowed to contact you:
- In person, by mail, by telephone and by fax about the bills you owe.
- At home, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
- At work. It is legal for debt buyers to contact you on the job unless they have a telephone number to reach you during non-working hours. Debt buyers must stop calling you at work if they know that your employer disapproves of their calls.
- Through people who know you. If they can’t find you, debt buyers may attempt to contact other people who know you, such as neighbors, relatives, friends and employers. When a collection agency contacts people you know, they are not allowed to say why they are trying to contact you or how much you owe.
To stop a debt buyer from calling you at home or work:
- Put your request in writing. Send a letter by certified mail telling the debt buyer to stop calling your home and your place of work. Keep a copy of the letter for your records.
- Once the debt buyer gets your letter, they may not contact you again except to tell you that a creditor intends to take action on your account.
- Remember that sending a letter won’t erase your debts. Creditors can still take legal action to collect money that you owe them.
For help getting out of debt:
- Contact your creditors to work out a payment plan.
- Meet with an attorney to discuss legal options.
- Find a non-profit credit counselor. To find an accredited counselor near you, contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at 1-800-388-2227. And remember, if you get a call about a debt that isn’t really yours, you could be a victim of identity theft.
We Can Help
If you have a complaint about a debt buyer, contact us for help or call toll free within North Carolina 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.