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What debt collectors can and cannot do

DENVER — Dealing with debt collectors can be stressful. Complaints to the Federal Trade Commission are at an all-time high.

The FTC reports 181,000 complaints last year. Some callers use threats and obscenities, while others call non-stop at all hours of the day and night.

While your bills are your responsibility, you do have rights that protect you from harassing calls.

Colorado leads the way in lawsuits filed against abusive debt collectors. According to insidearm.com, Denver District Court saw the most suits filed, with a total of 658. Philadelphia was second, with 634. Los Angeles was third with 623, followed by Chicago with 592 and Newark, New Jersey with 486.

You don’t have to put up with fear and intimidation tactics. It’s against the law.  But the first thing you need to do is know your rights.

“(Colorado has) a very straight-forward piece of legislation,” says attorney Troy Krenning. “Collecting debt is okay. But don’t threaten, abuse or harass people in your effort to do it.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, collectors can’t threaten violence or harm. They can’t use obscene language. They can’t lie and they can’t say you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt.

Krenning has filed several lawsuits on behalf of consumers who have fallen victim to overly aggressive debt collectors. Three years ago, his business became personal.

“I routinely get calls on my answering machine at my house from debt collectors trying to collect from my brother,” he told us. “My brother died three years ago.”

His brother died of a stroke.

“They obviously don’t know I’m an attorney who sues debt collectors and if I had more time, I’d probably go after more of them myself.”

Financial advisor say don’t ignore the problem. Creditors can still file lawsuits to try to collect the money you owe them. They say communicate, try to negotiate a payment plan. If that doesn’t work, hire an attorney.

Troy Krenning and his partner Jill Gookin offer initial consultations free of charge. http://www.gkalaw.com/

For more information on the law:

http://www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov/departments/consumer_protection/uccc_cab/cab/consumer_rights_information_english

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm

www.ccba-co.org

www.askdoctordebt.org