Complaints against debt collectors jump

Invoice and past-due notices

Should companies be allowed to threaten and harass to collect a debt?

Of course, we have laws against this. But that's not stopping some collection agencies, at least if the increased reporting of complaints against these companies is to be believed.

The Federal Trade Commission says consumer complaints against debt collectors increased 17 percent in 2010, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier this month.

"The number of grievances have tripled since 2002, and are the most common gripe the agency hears, accounting for 27% of all complaints," according to the newspaper.

This rise is not entirely surprising given the state of the economy. More of us have had financial problems, so it stands to reason that more of us have had dealings with debt collectors.

If you owe a debt, you are protected from abusive collection methods through the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a three-decade old law that provides debtors with guidelines detailing their rights.

It also spells out what debt collectors can't do, like:

If you owe a debt and it has been turned over to a third-party collection agency, it's important to understand your rights.

This protection doesn't cancel your debts, but it does ensure you're protected against aggressive, abusive and illegal tactics commonly used to collect that debt.

Beginning this summer, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will begin helping the FTC monitor, regulate and enforce rules within the collection industry.

From the AJ-C:

The new bureau will have authority not only to write new rules on how debt collectors deal with consumers, but to hear and resolve complaints, said Valerie Hayes, general counsel for ACA International, a trade group representing about 5,000 debt collectors, attorneys and investors in the debt collection business.

You can help yourself avoid debt collectors if you try to work with your lender to resolve unpaid debts before a third-party collection agency is added to the mix.

Also, try our advice on how to get collection agencies off your back.