November 16, 2013
Important Tips For Consumers To Identify Legitimate Debt Collection Activity In Texas
In response to recent news reports about debt collection scams, the ACA of Texas offers the following tips for consumers to identify legitimate collection activities:
"Unscrupulous scams hurt Texas consumers and unnecessarily impedes legitimate debt collection efforts," said ACA of Texas Executive Director Tom Morgan. "The recovery of consumer debt is vitally important to our local, state and national economies. Those who purposely violate the law to exploit Texas consumers should be held fully accountable for their actions."
In addition to federal and state regulatory oversight of the debt collection industry and state law, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) outlines several important items that consumers can use to discern a legitimate attempt to recover a debt. Generally:
A debt collector may not contact a consumer at times known to be inconvenient to the consumer - assumed to be contact prior to 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. in your time zone. Further, a debt collector may not contact a consumer at his/her place of employment if they know that such contact is prohibited by the employer or consumer.
A debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of the debt, with anyone other than the consumer in question or his or her attorney (or the consumer's spouse unless prohibited by state law).
For debt collection communications, a debt collector must disclose its identity to the consumer and notify the consumer that the communication is from a debt collector, and (in the initial communication) that any information obtained will be used to effect collection of the debt.
A debt collector may not make false representations and may not threaten to take action (e.g., lawsuit, jail, garnishment, etc.) against a consumer if it doesn't actually intend to seek such action.
A debt collector must notify consumers of their right to dispute the validity of the debt, in part or in full, with the debt collector. The notice is required to be sent by debt collectors within five days of the initial communication with the consumer and the consumer has 30-days to request verification of the debt from the debt collector.
If the consumer disputes the validity of the debt within the 30-day time period, a debt collector must cease collection of the debt until it provides verification of the debt.
Texas consumers should also take great care when giving out personal information including a credit card, bank account or Social Security number until certain of the authenticity of the other party. Consumers should monitor his/her credit report, as well as accounts and immediately report any suspicious or unauthorized purchases to the bank or credit card provider. If a consumer believes his/her identity has been stolen, [s]he should contact the local police department and visit www.ftc.gov/idtheft for information on what to do.
"Debt collectors are not an enemy of consumers," Morgan said. "We are advocates for protecting consumer rights while balancing the ability to recover rightfully owed obligations that maintain America's credit-based economy." For more information about working with a debt collector visit www.askdoctordebt.org.
The ACA of Texas is a State Unit of ACA International (www.acainternational.org), the comprehensive, knowledge-based resource for the credit and collection industry. Founded in 1939, ACA brings together nearly 5,000 members in the United States and abroad, and their more than 300,000 employees, including third-party collection agencies, asset buyers, attorneys, creditors and vendor affiliates.