But, you don’t have to put up with illegal debt collection practices.
Abby Stempson, CEO of the Public Protection Bureau as well as the Consumer Protection Division in the Attorney General’s office says mounting debt keeps debt collectors in business.
“You know, there’s a lot of debt collectors out there and a lot of people with a lot of debt,” Stempson tells Nebraska Radio Network.
The total amount of consumer debt in this country exceeded $2.5 trillion in 2010 with nearly 30 million consumers with accounts in collection. Debt collectors make as many as a billion contacts a year with consumers.
“When the economy is bad, you can imagine that our complaints go up in regard to debt collection,” Stempson says. “Right now, the economy is a little bit more stable than in years past.”
Stempson says debt collectors, who must register in Nebraska through the Secretary of State office, have to follow the rules.
“Even if you owe someone $500 that does not give them the right to call you at midnight non-stop, trying to get you to pay it,” Stempson says. “There are some rules out there to protect the consumers.”
Debt collectors cannot harass, threaten, or deceive consumers. Last year, the AG office fielded 180 complaints about unfair debt collection practices.
Nebraska has joined a national coalition called Operation Collection Protection which is committed to working cooperatively to address illegal debt collection practices. The effort is led by the Federal Trade Commission.
Debt collectors may contact individuals by phone, letter, email or text message to collect a debt. They must operate in a business-like manner and must disclose that they are debt collectors. The AG office advises to work with a collector to see if arrangements can be worked out. Consumers can inform a collector in writing that they do not want to be contacted.
If you believe you have been contacted by a debt collector who may be violating the law, you can contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Nebraska Attorney General’s Office at ago.nebraska.gov under the Public Protection tab, or call us at 800-727-6432. You can also contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the Federal Trade Commission.