Sometimes, debt collectors have gone after people who do not legitimately owe money. They might go after someone who has already paid the bill, they might go after someone with the same name but who is not actually the borrower, or they might go after someone whose debt has expired. But even in cases where the person legitimately owes money - even if he or she owes a lot of money - debt collectors can only go so far in contacting the consumer.
For example, debt collectors are prohibited from contacting people outside of certain hours, or from making repeated or harassing phone calls. They are prohibited from lying about their identity or pretending to be from law enforcement. They also cannot threaten to throw a person in prison for failure to pay a debt. Debt collectors are further prohibited from using threatening, harassing or violent language when contacting a borrower.
People who owe money fall under these protections, but because they owe money, they may think the laws do not apply to them or they may not seek help. The truth is, however, even people who owe money can file lawsuits if they are being harassed by a debt collector. That lawsuit will not erase a legitimate debt, but it will compensate the victim for any illegal action on the part of the debt collector.
Furthermore, the laws protecting consumers are designed to protect them from companies big and small. It does not matter if the agency attempting to contact a consumer is a small local debt collector or a large company working on behalf of a national financial company, the laws still apply and lawsuits can still be filed.
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The bottom line is that regardless of whether a person actually owes money or does not, that person is protected from unethical and harassing collection practices and can file a lawsuit if a debt collector breaks the law.