More than a quarter of all consumer complaints to the Federal Trade Commission in 2005 concerned debt collectors.
So what constitutes illegal collection practices?
Debt collectors must:
¢ Indicate, within five days of first contacting you, who they are, for whom they are collecting and how much you owe.
¢ Not call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you say they can.
¢ Only contact third parties, like family members, once and only once in an attempt to locate you.
¢ Not call your workplace if they have reason to believe it will put your job in jeopardy.
¢ Not threaten you with actions they cannot take - criminal prosecution or garnishment, for example - or will not take, such as a civil lawsuit.
If an agency is breaking the rules, register a complaint by calling the FTC's hotline at (877) 382-4357.
See the FTC's guidelines for consumers at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/fdc.htm.