As you find ways to minimize the burden of the debt you carry, be that through a credit counselor or someone offering free bankruptcy advice, it's important to understand your privacy rights in regard to debt collection practices in the meantime. Sure, debt collection agencies serve a purpose, and many of them are just doing their job, but even so, you have rights and there are limits on how far debt collectors can go.
Many of us have dealt with people who work in debt collection. Complaints range from back-to-back calls at odd hours to hardball tactics that make the debtor feel like they're being personally attacked. Few things in life are as burdensome as spiraling debt, but there's nothing quite like getting harassed by debt collectors multiple times a day to make it so much worse. No one wants to go through their day like this, which is why legitimate debt relief help is something that many folks are desperately seeking.
First and foremost, it's helpful to understand how the debt collection process works. Why are you being contacted by the debt collector in the first place? Keep in mind that if the credit card company has taken a loss on your account, it may show up negatively on your credit report. If you are late on making a credit card payment, for example, a collection agency that either works for your creditor in-house or is a third party that has purchased your debt for less than you owe has been handed the reins in trying to collect payment. It might also be the case that you're being contacted about a debt that isn't yours, in which case it's quite likely that you've been a victim of identity theft. It may be difficult convincing the collector of this at first.
You have rights under federal and state laws. For instance, they may be liable for failure to cooperate if they aren't taking certain responsibilities in investigating your situation, particularly if the debt isn't yours to begin with. If a debt collector's conduct isn't in compliance with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, they may be liable for their conduct.
Finally, put any and all debt collection complaints in writing and send them to both the creditor and the collection agency via Certified Mail. This includes any promises or threats, any rude or harassing comments, or any explanations of the collector's behalf that may show improprieties in the handling of your debt, disputes, or payments.
Keep notes of conversations and copies of all correspondences. From the first time you are contacted by a debt collector, start a file. Keep track of dates and times of phone conversations, recorded messages, and when you send and receive correspondence via mail. Ask specific questions when you talk with them - get the name of the collector, the name of the agency, the name of the creditor, and phone/fax numbers for the agency. Keep in mind that if you've notified the collector not to contact you at all, they are entitled to contact you one more time to let you know how they intend to proceed. Collectors are supposed to follow up with you via mail within five days of a phone conversation. In addition to this, you can request that all future correspondences be in writing. You can request that they don't call you during certain hours, at work, or at all. Follow up with any privacy requests in writing.