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Are debt collectors calling you? Know your rights and options

Even though a number of people living in Florida and all throughout the country have fallen into debt, knowing what your rights are, what creditors can and cannot do and that debt relief solutions are available will lessen your overall level of stress.

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a consumer is protected from debt collectors calling and continuously harassing them. Of course, collectors can still call; they just cannot threaten, lie or invade your privacy. And, if you tell them to stop contacting you, they must listen.

Additionally, collectors cannot call earlier than 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you specifically say that it is OK. When it comes to calls while at work, if you say to stop calling, they also must respect your request.

Then, aside from the laws regarding contacting you, a collector must also prove that you really do owe the debt. This means that within five days of being contacted by a debt collector, that same collector must send you a written validation notice confirming the debt.

However, don't just accept that the validation notice is correct, as it may not be. Rather, double check that debt you have already paid off is not accidentally listed, and that the debt is in fact yours and not someone else's who happens to have a similar name. If something does not seem right and you do not believe that you owe the debt, you have 30 days to dispute the debt in writing.

In general -- regardless of the protections that are offered to consumers under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act -- chances are that if you are receiving phone calls and letters from collectors that you owe some kind of debt. In those situations where collectors are calling, yet you don't know even where to begin in terms of paying back what is owed, remember that a qualified professional or nonprofit debt counselor can provide insight on next steps to take.

Source: WIS, "What the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act means to you," Andrew Housser, Sept. 6, 2011

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