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Transcript: Defend yourself against debt collection

Anchor Intro: Americans now carry more than $2 trillion in debt. And as that figure grows, so does the debt collection industry's revenues, to the tune of more that $16 billion a year. Have you ever gotten a call from a debt collector? Bankrate.com met up with one consumer who has.

NSTS: "American Security and Asset Protection, this is Gil..."

Voice over 1: It wasn't too long ago that Gil Janus was afraid to answer his phone because on the other end was a debt collector.

SOT: "There were times when they got downright mean. You're not a man. How can you take care of your family if you can't pay your bills? Are your kids starving? How can you sleep at night? Things like that."

Voice over 2: Janus says he has every intention of paying his creditors more than a million dollars in business debt, but to get the calls to stop, he turned to attorney Spencer Gollahon.

SOT: "I sometimes tell them, so what? It's okay. There are a lot of people in your boat that cannot pay their debts. But that doesn't give debt collectors the right to harass you or treat you in an inappropriate manner."

Voice over 3: Gollahon is not suggesting consumers ignore money they owe. He is suggesting they know their rights if they encounter debt collectors who use tactics in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Here are some of the steps to take.

SOT: "Get the identity of the debt collector. Two… notify that debt collector in writing to cease and desist from any further or future communications. Then three, they need to get help with regard to dealing with that debt."

Standup: When the person on the other end of the line is a debt collector who makes threats, verbally harasses you or otherwise breaks the law, you do have rights. And you owe it to yourself to exercise them. For Bankrate.com, I'm Kristin Arnold.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy
-- Posted: April 20, 2009
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