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Consumer Watch: Fight phony debt collection

Consumers have rights that protect them against certain debt collection tactics. (KOKH)

Americans complain the most about debt collection and possible debt collection scams, and data from the Federal Trade Commission shows there are a lot of them. Government agencies have returned millions of dollars at the national level to scammed consumers. The FTC has banned 13 companies and people that violated the law from ever working in debt collection again.

According to the types of complaints from Americans on debt collection, most were about companies trying to collect a debt not owed, but there were also complaints about threats, lies, or sharing information improperly. Consumers are supposed to be protected against many of these tactics.

Here is what you need to know, debt collectors can only call you between 8am and 9pm, and they cannot contact you at work, if you tell them you are not allowed to get calls there.

You should try to talk to the debt collector and request written proof of the debt. If you don't owe it and want them to stop calling, then tell them, but it must be in writing.

Debt collectors are not allowed to harass you, threaten you with violence or arrest, or lie about why they are calling you.

Keep in mind there are debt collection companies that are legitimate. However, there are also instances when callers might really be scammers. If the caller is aggressive, threatening, or ask you to wire money immediately, know that those are red flags.

Personal finance site WalletHub recommends asking the caller about what information they have on you, and demand the information in writing. Also, check your credit report because if the debt isn't on your credit report, and the so-called debt collector can't give you your information, it could be a scam.

There are five sample letters that are free for you to use if you ever need to deal with debt collectors. According to the FTC, these letters have been downloaded more than 517,000 times as of December 2017, and you can find copies by clicking here. You can also file a complaint here, if you think you are being scammed or if you think a debt collection company is breaking the law.

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