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What are some illegal tactics used in unfair debt collection?

Illinois residents who are having financial problems are frequently concerned not just about the debt itself, but the strategies that debt collectors might use to try and collect. Unscrupulous collections companies will frequently partake in unfair debt collection tactics and commit other acts that violate federal law. They are aware of what they are doing and how their behavior brushes up against or openly violates the consumer's rights, but do it anyway. Having legal protection is vital to making this stop.

Debt collectors are not allowed to harass debtors. Harassment can include threatening violence or harm if the debt is not paid; publishing the names of people who are not paying their debts; use abusive, profane or obscene language; or continually call as a means of annoyance. They cannot make false statements. The collectors are not allowed to lie when they are calling about a debt. This includes not being allowed to say they are legal professionals or represent the government if they do not, allege that the debtor has committed a crime, say they work for a credit reporting company, be inaccurate about how much is owed, claim they sent the debtor legal papers when they did not or say papers are not legal forms if they are.

They are not allowed to assert that a person will be arrested if they do not pay their debt, that property or wages will be seized, garnished, attached or property will be sold (unless they are legally allowed to do so) or claim that legal action is pending if they do not intend to move forward with it. They cannot give false credit information about the debtor to any other person, nor can they send a document that looks like it is officially from the court or a government entity if it is not. They cannot use a false company name. Unfair practices include trying to collect fees on top of the debt that is owed unless the law states this can be done. They cannot deposit a check that has been postdated prior to that date. They cannot make threats to take property unless it is legal to do so. They also cannot make contact via postcard.

Being in debt can be a difficult matter to deal with and those who are feeling stress about it often have that exacerbated by underhanded tactics collections companies attempt to use to get the payments. For protection and alternatives, it is wise to speak to an attorney who is experienced in consumer fraud and the various protections that are available to debtors.

Source: consumer.ftc.gov, "Debt Collection -- What practices are off limits for debt collectors?," accessed on June 6, 2017

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