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What you should know about debt collectors

It's something most people dread: a call from the bill collector. Even if you've fallen behind on payments, debt collection agencies must follow laws and rules, and you do have rights.
Bill Gephardt, KSL Modified: April 30, 2014 at 9:05 am •  Published: April 30, 2014
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It's something most people dread: a call from the bill collector.

Federal regulators say they are getting tired of complaints about debt collectors. Thousands of people say they're being harassed for money they don't owe. Many others complain of aggressive tactics that can include abusive language.

Even if you've fallen behind on payments, debt collection agencies must follow laws and rules, and you do have rights, as Sherman Hairup discovered.

He said he was surprised by a notice he got from a debt collection agency out of Florida saying he owed them $128. But a bigger surprise came a little later, when he called the agency to find out what it was about.

“That’s all he said it was, insurance. I asked him what kind of insurance and he didn’t tell me,” Hairup said.

He said he wasn’t about to pay someone $128 without more details.

“I asked him a few questions and he got riled, started literally screaming over me, over the phone,” he said.

Hairup said the man's screaming got louder as he threatened to send attorneys after him. Hairup hung up the phone when he couldn't get a word in between the yells and threats. Now, Hairup wonders if he was dealing with a scammer.

“A legitimate, professional company, they certainly wouldn’t act that way,” he said.

At least they shouldn’t. But that's exactly who Hairup was dealing with: a legitimate debt collection agency.

We contacted a professional debt collector to find out what they can and cannot say to people who owe them money.

“You need to help the consumer,” said Michelle Camp, general manager of Express Recovery Services in West Valley City, Utah. “You’re not going to get anything resolved if you don’t help the consumer.”

Camp said she's been in the debt collections business for 25 years. She said an agency's best interest is to be friendly and help people resolve problems.

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