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Your credit is critically important and it is equally important that you understand all you can about how you can protect it. Whether it’s identity theft protection, monitoring your credit score or repairing bad credit, you must take an active role in safeguarding your name and your credit records.
Dealing with Collection Companies
Dealing with a debt collection company is never easy. But if one or more of your debts has been turned over for collection, you still have rights and there are specific limits on the types of action that a collection agency can take.
- A debt collector can only call you between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. local time.
- A debt collector cannot communicate with you at your place of employment, once you advise him that this is unacceptable.
- Collection agencies cannot contact you directly if you have engaged an attorney, and they cannot publish your name or address on a “bad debt list.”
- You cannot be threatened with arrest or legal action that is not permitted or contemplated.
- Debt collectors cannot use abusive or profane language, and they cannot discuss the nature of your debts with a third party – other than your spouse or your attorney.
- In addition, debt collectors must identify themselves and notify you – in every communication – that they are debt collectors and that any information obtained will be used in collection of the debt.
Your creditors have the right to contact you in the interests of collecting the money owed them. But there are rules they must follow or they can face fines and even lawsuits. If you feel that you are being subjected to illegal behavior on the part of a collection agency, you should contact an attorney to review your options.
Identity theft has always been a problem, but in the Internet Age it has become an epidemic. The number of ways to steal someone’s identity is limited only by a thief’s imagination, and methods can be as sophisticated as computer hacking or as “old-fashioned” as stealing someone’s wallet or going through their trash. Once they have your identity, thieves can swiftly run up bills in the tens of thousands of dollars while they cause serious harm to your finances and credit rating. The best protection against identity theft is personal vigilance. Don’t carry your Social Security card, never share your personal information with anyone you don’t know, shred all sensitive financial documents, and carefully review your bank and credit card statements for any suspicious activity.
Other indications of identity theft include:
- Failing to receive bills that you expect every month
- Receiving credit cards for which you didn’t apply
- Denial of credit for no apparent reason
- Receiving calls from debt collectors about merchandise or services you didn’t buy
If you suspect that your identity has been compromised, take the following steps immediately:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
- Close the accounts that you believe have been compromised.
- File a report with the police.
- Contact your bank and all of your creditors to alert them of your situation, and follow up with them in writing.
It’s critical that you act as soon as you suspect a problem to minimize the damage to yourself and your credit. You can find more information on identity theft at the Federal Trade Commission’s website at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft.