A recently announced Federal Trade Commission settlement serves as a reminder to consumers that they should be aware of the information contained on their credit report, and that they do have certain protections under the law when it comes to dealing with bill collectors.
The FTC recently announced that it had assessed a $1 million civil fine on a debt collection company that had illegally pressured people to pay bills they did not actually owe, while also passing inaccurate information on to credit reporting agencies.
Specifically, the company reported the debts to the credit agencies without informing them that the consumers were disputing the amounts in question. The collection firm also apparently continued to pursue people for debts that had already been paid off or which they had never been responsible for in the first place.
For people who are having difficulty with debt collectors, they should familiarize themselves with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The act can be viewed on the FTC website and contains a variety of protections from unscrupulous debt collectors. For example, people have the right to not be contacted at unreasonable times of the day, such as late at night or very early in the morning.
Also, debt collectors are prohibited by the law from posing as law enforcement officials or attorneys, and it is also illegal for them to use abusive or profane language, or to threaten a person with physical harm.
Another illegal form of harassment that consumers can sometimes experience is when a debt collector contacts their employer or neighbors about a debt. Under the law though, a collector can only contact such people in the act of trying to locate a person. Otherwise, collectors are prohibited from discussing a given debt with third parties.
The economy has resulted in a significant increase in people receiving calls from debt collectors, as well as complaints to state and federal agencies about the tactics they sometimes use.
With that in mind, consumers should be as prompt as possible when it comes to making monthly payments to avoid such difficulties, which will also help them protect their credit scores from the damage that comes from missed payments.
It also makes good sense to take advantage of the federal law that allows people to receive a copy of their credit report once a year from each of the three main credit reporting bureaus.