National Consumer Protection Week, Day Two

Debt collectors can drive you nuts. And that's what they are actually trying to do too, but more about that in a minute.

Today is day two of the National Consumer Protection Week. Yesterday we talked about the latest car dealer scam, the presumptive close. Today let's talk about debt collector harassment and how to stop it.

Each year the Federal Trade Commission looks at all the complaints they get from consumers in the prior year and counts them up to see what people are complaining about the most. You might think it was the Wall Street bankers who stole all our retirement money, right? You'd be wrong. That is just so 2009.

This year Debt Collectors took First Place as the top consumer complaint category for 2012.

Debt collector harassment has turned into a rampant, no holds barred industry in the US. Threats to put you in jail, to take your kids, to tell all your neighbors that you owe money, and some things much worse - all of it happens every day. And all of it is illegal.

Why do they do it? Because intimidation works. They frighten people into paying and that's the name of their game.

To get a sample of some of it, go to this YouTube video of an ABC News show and you can listen to some of the harassment and see what we mean. It's rough out there, folks.

Good people can hit hard times and have to deal with debt collectors calling. And many debt collectors (well, okay, maybe not many) are reasonable and fair and just trying to do their job and are reasonable and courteous. But then there are the ones who call you at all hours of the night, leave nasty notes on your front door, call your elderly parents or your neighbors, etc, etc.

So how do you stop it? Know your rights and when they cross the line, do something about it. But don't just get even. Get a lawyer and get some Justice too.

First, your rights. You have the legal right to be treated fairly and with civility by a debt collector. And there are some specific things that a debt collector is forbidden from doing.

They can't call you before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night. They can't call you at work if your employe doesn't all it either - but you have to tell them that first, so they know it.

They can't curse you. They can't insult you or demand that you pay more than is actually owed. They can't lie and they can't say they will take your kids away if you don't pay them. And, yes, they can't threaten to put you in jail if you don't pay either.

The last notice you get from a debt collector is this
You can stop a debt collector from harassing you by just sending them a letter and telling them to stop. Once they get it, they can't contact you again, except to tell you that they are going to sue you over the debt. But be forewarned - stopping the phone calls does not erase the debt if the money is legitimately owed.

If you have an attorney, once you tell them that, then the debt collector is not allowed to contact you again - they have to deal with your attorney.

And if you don't owe the debt, write a letter to the debt collector within 30 days after you get their written notice of the debt and tell them you don't owe it or to send you proof of the debt. Then they have to either do it or leave you alone.

There are lots of other questions you may have about illegal debt collection and you can click on this web page to read more.

And if the debt collector violates the law anyway? Well, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and hire a lawyer to sue them back because if they violate the law, then they can owe you $1,000 plus have to pay your attorney fees, just for that. Call your local attorney's bar association and ask for a referral to a "credit rights" or "debt collection defense" lawyer or check for one at

Getting a lawyer on your side is a great way to teach debt collectors a lesson too.

Burdge Law Office
Helping consumers protect themselves

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Known nationwide as a leading Lemon Law attorney, Ronald L. Burdge has represented literally thousands of consumers in "lemon" lawsuits and actively co-counsels and coaches other Consumer Law attorneys. From 2005 through 2018, attorney Ronald L. Burdge has been named as the only Lemon Law Ohio Super Lawyer by Law and Politics magazine and Thomson Reuters Corp., Professional Division. Burdge restricts his practice to Lemon Law and Consumer Law cases. The Ohio Super Lawyer results are published annually in the January issue of Cincinnati Magazine. Ronald L. Burdge was named Consumer Law Trial Lawyer of the Year 2004 by the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the nation's largest organization of consumer law private and government attorneys. "Your impact on the auto industry has been magnified many times over because of the trail you blazed for others," stated NACA's Executive Director, Will Ogburn. Burdge has represented thousands of consumers in Ohio, Kentucky and elsewhere since 1978 and is a frequent lecturer to national, state and local Bar Associations and Judicial organizations. Burdge is admitted to Ohio's state and federal courts, Kentucky's state courts, and Indiana's federal courts. Other court admissions are on a "pro hac" temporary, case by cases basis.