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Published: Sunday, February 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Online resources on dealing with debt collectors

It can be scary when, rightly or wrongly, your debts are referred to a collection agency. You've got rights as a debtor, but you'll need to study up on them. These sites outline the rules of this serious game.
The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and maintains this page on what you should know about debt collectors, and what you can do if you feel you are being treated unfairly by a debt collector. Links on dealing with debt collectors, on the right side of the page, specifically discuss stopping a debt collector's calls and letters, fake debt collectors and debt-collection arbitration.
The law noted above doesn't cover all debt collections, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse explains which debts aren't covered. Among them are those being collected by the government (think IRS) unless the debt has been referred to an outside agency for collection. Companies that collect their own debts, not those of others, don't come under the same restrictions as collection agencies.'s personal-finance expert and author Gerri Detweiler appears in an ABC News video, here on YouTube, to run down a list of key things people need to know about debt collections. She says the first thing to do when a debt collector calls is to tell the collector to "put it in writing," which is a right under the federal law.
There's much more on debt-collection rights at the site led by a former New Jersey Department of Consumer Affairs director:
An anonymous debt collector speaks in this post at the Hairpin, a general-interest blog for women, and admits first of all that this wasn't his or her first choice for a career. How long might an uncooperative debtor be dunned? the collector is asked. "We keep trying, until you're drowning in debt and on the way up to see St. Peter. God, that makes us sound awful." Well, yes.
More confessions of debt collectors are here at, where collectors say they are subject to death threats, and insist they are not mean at heart:

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