Debt collection is a whopping $11.5 billion industry, and around 28% of Americans currently owe money and are being sought out by a third party debt collection agency, according to the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP).

Debt collectors often prey on creditors' ignorance. In 2018 alone, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) banned 32 companies and individuals from ever working in debt collection again for malpractice. The best course of action when you first become late on a payment is to make sure you know the laws and your rights when it comes to handling debt collection.

A debt collection agency is a separate third party from the original creditor to whom you owe money. At some point of time (usually no sooner than 90 days), creditors often turn over unpaid loans to the debt collector to pursue the customer in an attempt to receive payments. Debt collection agencies often buy out a portion of the unpaid loan from the creditor, or they may receive a percentage of the money if and when it is paid.

Debt collection is a civil, not criminal matter. This means the police will not get involved, and you will not go to jail for failure to pay on loans.


What to Do First When Contacted by a Debt Collector?

First, get the information validated with the collector in writing and make sure it is something you truly owe. Also verify that it is for the correct amount (take note that sometimes debt collectors offer a discounted payment if you pay in full).

Initial Contact

The majority of debt collection agencies have an agent reach out by phone for the first contact, even before mail. No matter what, make sure not to say anything that can be considered an admission to owning the debt during this call.

Do not give out any personal info—they will ask for it, but you don't have to answer their questions.

Get as much information from the caller as you can, including their name, the agency they work for, their address, and phone numbers they can be reached at.

Always ask the caller to send you a written statement regarding what they say you owe. If they ask for your address, do not give it out. A genuine debt collector would already have that info. By law, the debt collector is required to send this written notice within 5 days of contacting the debtor.

Keep a log of every call you receive along with any documentation from debt collectors, and be sure to include the date, time, and any pertinent information from the call for your protection.

Know Your Rights

Consumer debt collection agencies have been known to be aggressive to get their "sale," but laws protect the rights of consumers in regards to debt collection.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) governs the behaviors and actions of third-party debt collectors attempting to collect payments on behalf of a creditor. Under this law, debt collectors are in violation of law if they do any of the following:

  • Debt collectors are limited in the hours they can reach out to the debtor. They cannot call you before 8 a.m or after 9 p.m unless an arrangement has been made with the debtor.
  • Initially, debt collectors can attempt to make contact with a debtor through their place of employment. However, either a verbal or written statement telling the collector to stop contacting you at work barres the debt collector from reaching out to you through your place of employment again.
  • You can also request the collector stop calling your personal phone. This must be submitted in a written request to be upheld. (Tip: send this request by certified mail).
  • Debt collectors are allowed to reach out to known contacts of the debtor to try and obtain their contact information. However, it's wise to note that legally they cannot discuss what they need the information for or even the fact that they are a debt collector. Additionally, debt collectors are only allowed to reach out to third-parties as such one time each.
  • Debt collectors are prohibited from using any means of harassment to collect on a bill. They can not make any threats such as arrest or bodily harm, and they also are barred from using obscene language.
  • Debt collectors cannot threaten to garnish wages without the presence of an active judgement (court order) against you. Likewise, they cannot threaten to sue you without the intent and therefore proof to go through with it.


Debt


Statute of Limitations

Under state laws governing statute of limitations, creditors and debt collectors have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit to recover a debt.

In most states, debt collectors can still attempt to collect on a debt after the statute of limitations; however, they have no legal recourse to sue you.

It is important to note that the court doesn't keep track of statute of limitations. This means that a debt collector may still attempt to sue you after the statute of limitations expires. If a debt collector attempts to sue after the statue of limitations expires, it is your responsibility to know and provide this information to the court.

The time period for statue of limitations varies by state. Typically most states range from three to five years, but some go as high as ten or fifteen. This differs entirely from the timeline that a collections bill stays on your credit report, which is typically seven years.

Resources

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has sample letters for use when corresponding with debt collectors, which you can find here.

For specific laws in your state, contract your Attorney General's office. If you believe a debt collector has either violated laws or made false claims against you, you can file a complaint with the CFPB, FTC, and the Better Business Bureau.

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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.