It’s amazing Frances Marshall hasn’t disconnected her phone service yet. The North Carolina woman says she has received harassing debt-collection calls incessantly for the past two years, even though she says she has no outstanding debts, reports FOX8 in High Point, N.C.
The collectors have threatened her, saying she’ll be subject to prosecution and jail time if she doesn’t pay up, but as frightening as the calls have been, Marshall knows she’s debt-free. Still, the great-grandmother has considered paying the collectors, just to put an end to the calls.
When Collectors Break the Law
Not only is it troubling that a debt-free woman is receiving collection calls, the nature of the calls themselves is alarming. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits collectors from threatening consumers with legal action (and verbal abuse, in general), and it’s important for consumers to know that you can’t go to jail merely for having unpaid bills. (There are ways debt could lead to incarceration, but debtors’ prisons are largely a thing of the past.)
Ignoring collectors won’t make your debts disappear, but if you want to stop receiving phone calls regarding your debt, collectors must honor your request. Brushing up on your debt collection rights is essential to dealing with such a stressful situation — here are 10 you need to know.
Is It a Scam?
Marshall’s story raises a few red flags. She said the collectors refuse to provide her written confirmation of her debt (which they’re required to do by law), and the amount they say she owes varies by call. She has made the right move in contacting her local sheriff’s department, because it’s possible this is a scam or someone stole her identity.
Anyone who receives calls from a debt collector should verify the legitimacy of the debt (here’s how), and you should also check your credit reports for unauthorized accounts, because left unchecked, identity theft can make a mess of your finances, not to mention your sanity. You can get your credit reports for free once a year.
The more you know about your financial situation and credit standing, the better equipped you will be to handle something like an unexpected debt collection notice or credit card theft. Make a habit of requesting your free annual credit reports, monitor your credit scores for sudden changes (you can do that for free through Credit.com), and take time to review your credit card, debit card and bank transactions as often as you can. The sooner you notice the problem, the fewer problems it’s likely to cause you.
More on Managing Debt:
- The Credit.com Debt Management Learning Center
- How to Pay Off Credit Card Debt
- 5 Tips for Consolidating Credit Card Debt