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Attorney General Warns Vermonters Of Fake, Threatening And Harassing Collection Calls
CONTACT: Crystal Grewe, Consumer Assistance Program, (802) 656-3864
March 9, 2011
Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell is cautioning Vermonters to be wary of fake collection calls that threaten consumers with dire consequences for failing to pay on a supposed debt. "These calls violate Vermont law. Collection agents may not threaten arrest, garnishments of wages, loss of personal property or other consequences they cannot enforce without a court order," says Sorrell. Many of the calls claim to be collecting on an unpaid "payday" or short-term loan. In some cases, consumers had received short term loans, but had paid them in full. Payday loans are unlawful in Vermont, as the interest rates far exceed the rates allowable under Vermont banking law.
What you can do if you are targeted by shady collectors:
Don't engage with the caller: The hostile and threatening tactics employed by these callers is intended to scare you into paying. Politely request information in writing and end the call. DO NOT make payment arrangements or agree to terms over the telephone, as such agreements are difficult to prove or enforce.
Do not provide or verify any personal information: Do not give or verify your social security number, bank account information or date of birth, even if it appears the caller may know the information. Do not acknowledge you may owe a debt. Request the information be sent to you – the caller should have your address and then end the call.
Request information on the debt and the collection agency: Under debt collection practices law, you have the right to know the full name and contact information for any collection agency that contacts you, as well as to request proof of the debt in writing.
Respond in writing to any written notification of a debt: If a collection agency sends you a notice in writing that you have a debt, but does not provide the specifics of the debt, respond in writing and request all the information about the debt be sent to you, including a copy of their right to collect the debt. Do not verify any personal information. Send your response by certified or registered mail. Under debt collection practices law, the collection agency must furnish proof in writing that you owe the debt upon your request and provide their authority to collect on the debt, or cease collection of the debt.
Tell the collection agency how they may contact you: You have the right to request that any collection agency contact you only in the manner that you choose (such as by mail or through your attorney), or not contact you at all (called a cease-contact request). Your request must be in writing and should be sent by certified or registered mail so you have proof of receipt.
Report harassing, threatening or bogus collection calls: If you receive bogus, threatening or harassing calls, you may report the calls to authorities. Violations of fair debt collection practices laws can be reported to the Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Program. You may find more information about your debt collection rights or file a complaint online (www.uvm.edu/consumer) or contact CAP by phone toll free in Vermont at (800) 649-2424 or (802) 656-3183. Threats of physical harm should be immediately reported to your local law enforcement agency.