David William Jordan

Attorney & Counselor at Law

Questions About Debt Collectors

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If you fall behind in repaying your creditors, or an error is made on your accounts, you may be contacted by a "debt collector."

The Federal and New Hampshire Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that debt collectors treat you fairly and prohibit certain methods of debt collection. Of course, the law does not erase any legitimate debt you owe.

Question: What debts are covered?

Answer: Personal, family and household debts are covered. This includes money owed for the purchase of an automobile, for medical care, or for charge accounts.

Question: Who is a debt collector?

Answer: A debt collector is any person who regularly collects debts owed to others.

Question: How may a debt collector contact you?

Answer: A debt collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram or fax. You may not be contacted at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8:00 a.m., or after 9:00 p.m., unless you agree. You cannot be contacted at work if the collector knows that your employer disapproves of such contacts.

Question: Can you stop a debt collector from contacting you?

Answer: Yes, by writing a letter to the debt collector telling them to stop. Once the debt collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again, except to say there will be no further contact or to notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action. Please note that sending such a letter does not make the debt go away if you actually owe the debt. You could still be sued by the debt collector or your original creditor.

Question: May a debt collector contact anyone else about your debt?

Answer: If you have an attorney, the debt collector must contact the attorney, rather than you. If you do not have an attorney, a debt collector may contact other people, but only to find out where you live, what your telephone number is and where you work. Debt collectors usually are prohibited from contacting such third parties more than once. In most cases, the debt collector may not tell anyone other than you and your attorney that you owe money.

What must the debt collector tell you about the debt?

Answer: Within five (5) days after you are first contacted, the debt collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe, the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money.

Question: May a debt collector continue to contact you if you believe you do not owe the money?

Answer: A debt collector may not contact you if, within thirty (30) days after you receive the written notice, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money. However, a debt collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed.

Question: What control do you have over payment of debts?

Answer: If you owe more than one debt, any payment you make must be applied to the debt you indicate. A debt collector may not apply a payment to any debt you believe you do not owe.

Question: What can you do if you believe a debt collector violated the law?

Answer: You have the right to sue a debt collector in a New Hampshire or Federal Court within one (1) year from the date the law was violated. If you win, you may recover money for the damages you suffered plus an additional amount up to $1,000. Court costs and attorney's fees also can be recovered. A group of people also may sue a debt collector and recover money for damages up to $500,000 or one percent (1%) of the debt collector's net worth, whichever is less.

Question: Where can you report a debt collector for an alleged violation?

Answer: Report any problems you have with a debt collector to the New Hampshire Attorney General's office and the Federal Trade Commission.

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