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When debt collectors call

By Susan Tompor
Detroit Free Press

About 30 million Americans owe money and are hearing, perhaps a little too frequently, from debt collectors. And what if you don’t even really owe money? Nearly 1 out of 10 Americans is dealing with debt collectors for an average of about $1,500 apiece, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Here are six steps you can take when receiving the calls:

1.Consumers can get information about debt collection at www.askdoctordebt.org, created by the ACA International Education Foundation.

2. The Federal Trade Commission offers help with debt collection questions at www.ftc.gov.

3. Typically, the FTC notes, you might want to talk to a collector at least once to see if you can resolve the matter. But you do have right to ask the collector – in writing – to stop contacting you.

Make a copy of your letter. Send the original by certified mail and pay for a “return receipt” so that you can document what the collector received.

Sending a letter or telling a debt collector to stop calling does not get rid of the debt. A creditor can file a lawsuit to collect the debt.

4. Report complaints with debt collectors to a state attorney general’s office via www.naag.org and the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.

5. Watch out for fake debt collectors. They might ask for your bank account and Social Security numbers. They also may tell you that someone will come and arrest you if you don’t pay now.

6. It’s key that you don’t give out account information. Request that any request involving collecting a debt be sent in writing.

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