HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Debt is important to pay, but if people don't think that debt belongs to them and debt collectors are harassing them, they do have rights.
There are steps oneu can take to stop those calls, but it is important to recognize that there are people who will portray themselves as debt collectors to get money.
A debt collector may not contact someone before 8 a.m., or after 9 p.m., unless an individual agreed to it. They also are prohibited from contacting a person at their place of business unless permission is given.
If a consumer receives a call from a debt collector about a debt, Sandra Gamby, interim CEO with the Better Business Bureau of Coastal Carolina, said speak with them once to at least find out if the matter can be resolved, even if the person doesn't think they have any debt.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, after a receiving a call from a debt collector they must send a written "validation notice" stating how much money is owed within five days after the first contact.
This notice also must include the name of the creditor to whom money is owed, and how to proceed if the person doesn't think they owe the money.
"Once you receive that, you can better evaluate if you want further conversation about the debt, or if you do not," Gamby said. "And if you do not want to have conversation about that debt any longer or if you don't believe you need to write a letter, send it certified and after that they will not longer be able to contact you."
Gamy said there are two exceptions: a collector can contact someone to tell them there will be no further contact, or to let a person know that they or the creditor intend to take a specific action, like filing a lawsuit.
Individuals should be aware writing the debt collector does not get rid of the debt; it only stops the contact.
Gamby said to be careful that the caller isn't posing as a debt collector to try to scam someone out of money, He added there are certain things that are off limits to debt collectors that should raise a flag to consumers, such as harassment, threats of arrest or incarceration or portraying themselves as a law enforcement agent.
If any of those things are happening, it's one of two things; either you're being scammed or the debt collector is not following the law and you can take action against them," Gamby said.
For more information about individual rights and the laws concerning debt collectors, visit the Federal Trade Commission website.