One little paragraph in President Barack Obama's deficit-reduction plan could make it easier for federal debt collectors to reach delinquent consumers.
The Huffington Post reported that on page 28 of the proposal was a section that would allow federal agencies to call people's mobile phones to collect debts owed to or guaranteed by the federal government, such as federal student loans or unpaid taxes.
Kenneth Baer, spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, downplayed the proposed change, telling The Huffington Post that "This proposal merely reflects the fact that more and more people rely solely on a mobile phone for their voice communications, and allows debt collectors to call them on these numbers."
However, one downside is that such calls could eat into cell phone minutes and disrupt debtors with phone calls while they're at work. Certainly those who were contacted unintentionally thanks to old contact information wouldn't be pleased.
Debt collection practices already generate a boatload of consumer complaints. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 140,000 complaints about debt collectors. The industry came in second place on the FTC's top 10 list of consumer complaints for 2010. Identity theft topped the list.
If a debt collector calls you about a delinquent credit card debt or another debt you owe, make sure you know your rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act places a number of restrictions on debt collectors, including:
- No phone calls before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you agree to it.
- No threats of violence or harm.
- No false claims that they are attorneys or government representatives.
- No discussion of your debt with third parties other than your spouse or attorney. Debt collectors may contact other people to obtain your contact information.
- No misrepresentation that legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don't intend to take action.
You also have the right to ask the debt collector not to contact you again until the debt has been verified -- just make sure to do so in writing within 30 days after you receive the "validation notice," which says how much money you owe. To learn more, check out the Bankrate article, "6 tips for dealing with debt collectors."
Weigh in: Should debt collectors be allowed to call you on your cell phone?
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