These days, Seena Rosenberry is wary in responding to her calls and messages. She was harassed by a debt collector until she was forced to pay more than $9,000 for a credit card debt that wasn't hers to begin with.
Seena's sister filed bankruptcy because she was unable to pay for her increasing credit card debt. With this move, she was able to discharge her debts, allowing her to start new, despite a ruined credit score. But Seena's financial standing was so much better than her sister, and as an authorized user of her sister's credit cards, debt collectors thought that they could collect from her.
"They called my tenant's house, my friend's daughter, my sister's house just to find me," she says. "He was nasty, from beginning to the end of the call." The debt collections company was calling everyone who knew Seena because they didn't have her phone number. They left various kinds of messages asking her to call them back because she is in big trouble.
When Seena called the company back, she was shocked when told that she has to pay an outstanding debt C the same one incurred by her sister. When she refused to pay the debt, the collector threatened her with all sorts of things such as "they're going to take your properties, we're going to sue you, you're going to get a huge fine."
This story is not a new one. If you own at least one credit card, then you've probably experienced one of these annoying calls. With the high unemployment rate and more people defaulting on their credit card debts and loans, debt collection agencies have become even more aggressive in order to collect. What few people realize is that even with a huge debt, you are still protected by the law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was first enacted in 1968 but was amended in 2006 in order to address the changing demands of the times. Unfortunately, very few consumers know about this law and are terrified of complaining for fear of getting sued.
Through this law, debt collectors are not allowed to:
- Threaten the debtor with legal action unless they mean it
- Tell a third party about your debt
- Call excessively, especially during inconvenient hours (before 8am and after 9pm)
- Use obscene or abusive language
- Contact you while at work
- Falsely claim that they represent the United States government
On the other hand, debt collectors are allowed to:
- Contact you through mail, telephone or telegram
- Call people who can locate you but they are not allowed to tell this person that you owe them money
- Send you a letter 5 days after you are first contacted, with all pertinent information such as the name of the creditor company trying to collect from you, and how you can proceed if you want to dispute the debt.
While it is true that credit card companies can sue, they also have to follow several guidelines before resorting to court action. In the case of Seena Rosenberry, aside from violation of the FDCPA, the debt collections company didn't have the right to collect the debt since her sister already filed for bankruptcy.
Seena has recently sued Credigy Solutions Inc., in order to get her money back. She has also included Experian Information Solutions Inc., in this filing so as to get her credit report fixed. While she waits for the resolution of her case, she has an advice to give, "Call a lawyer, call somebody who can help, but never give them the money, especially if you know you don't owe it."