According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, 80 percent of U.S. adults are in debt. This number includes debts related to mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, medical services and student and personal loans. A 2015 Nerdwallet analysis of Americans' debt revealed that, on average, U.S. households carry debts of roughly $130,000 with those related to mortgages and student loans being the most costly.
In January, Forbes Magazine reported that, with less than $1,000 to their names, 56 percent of Americans are essentially living paycheck to paycheck. Considering this statistics, it's safe to conclude that millions of Americans are essentially one unexpected home repair or medical bill away from having major financial problems. In cases where an individual experiences financial hardships and is unable to pay a credit card or medical bill on time, it's highly likely that he or she will eventually be contacted by a debt collector.
While debt collectors have a right to contact consumers who fail to pay their bills on time or at all, they must abide by certain rules and restrictions when doing so. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors are restricted from taking any of the following actions:
• Harassing consumers with repeated telephone calls
• Contacting consumers via the telephone before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
• Using language that is obscene or abusive in nature
• Stating the incorrect amount of debt owed
• Misrepresenting who they are and the authority they have with regard to taking legal action and/or garnishing a consumer's wages
• Calling an individual at work, after being told not to do so
• Talking to anyone other than the consumer and/or his or her attorney about the debt in question
In cases where an individual is contacted by a debt collector who engages in any of the actions referenced above, it's highly likely that many other people are also being subjected to the same types of illegal debt collection actions. Debt collectors who violate federal and state laws should be held accountable for their failures and an attorney who handles consumer law cases can assist.
Source: Bankrate, "6 tips for dealing with debt collectors," Lucy Lazarony, May 3, 2016