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Ask the Experts: Stop Harassment From a Debt Collector

Q. I've fallen behind on my credit card bills. A bill collector has been calling me numerous times each day and harassing me for payment. If I could make a payment, I would. It doesn't help to have someone yelling at me on the other end of the phone. What are my rights in this situation?

A. Debt collectors are not permitted by law to harass or abuse consumers from whom they're trying to collect a payment. But clearly, not all collectors comply with the law. The Federal Trade Commission says debt collectors have been the industry most complained about by consumers for many years.

First, you should write a "cease" letter to the collector demanding that the harassment cease immediately. Keep a copy. Send the letter by certified mail and request a return receipt. The National Consumer Law Center has a sample letter to a creditor on its website.

If the harassment continues, write to the government agencies responsible for enforcing laws that prohibit debt collection abuse, including your state attorney general’s office and the FTC. You can call the FTC at 1-877-382-4357 toll-free, or send a letter of complaint to the Consumer Response Center at the Federal Trade Commission, CRC-240, Washington, DC 20580.

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