If you’ve ever had trouble paying your bills and had your accounts turned over to a debt collector or a debt buyer, you’re not alone. And if you get a call about a debt that isn’t really yours, you could be a victim of identity theft.
Congress has ordered the Internal Revenue Service to begin using debt collectors to try to collect unpaid taxes. These debt collectors may contact taxpayers by telephone, but only after the IRS and the debt collection company have attempted to contact the taxpayer by mail. Legitimate debt collectors working on behalf of the IRS will instruct taxpayers to pay their overdue taxes online at irs.gov or by sending a check, made out to “U.S. Treasury,” directly to the IRS.There are rules that collection agencies must follow when trying to collect on a debt you owe.
Debt collectors 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.
Debt collectors 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 collectors to contact you on the job unless they have a telephone number to reach you during non-working hours. Debt collectors 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 collectors 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 collector from calling you at home or work:
- Put your request in writing. Send a letter by certified mail telling the debt collector to stop calling your home and your place of work. Keep a copy of the letter for your records.
- Once the debt collector 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.
We Can Help
If you have a complaint about a debt collector, contact us for help or call toll free within North Carolina 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.