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State officials offer refresher on debt collection rules after robocall warning


MADISON, Wis. (WSAU) - State officials are reminding people about the rules that debt collectors have to follow in the wake of a phone scam this week.

Department of Financial Institutions Consumer affairs Director Paul Egide says there's a number of rules on the books about the conduct collectors have to follow. "They cannot call earlier than 8 am or later than 9pm. They cannot swear at you, they cannot tell you something that is not true." Threatening to spill the fact you owe money is against the law. "They cannot communicate or disclose your debts to a third party that does not have a legitimate business need to know the information."

The message comes after a robocall was making the rounds this month. State Consumer Protection administrator Sandy Chalmers says the call can be frightening. "Somebody says you might be a respondent in a court case, and you may have your wages garnished, and all you have to do to stop the company from talking with your employer is to press a key to talk to a litigator." The callers aren't actually representing anyone and the numbers they give to contact are also phony.

Egide says it's a common ploy they see. "They're trying to intimidate the consumer, they don't want to be embarrassed by their employer knowing they have a debt, that kind of thing. So yes, that's just one more intimidation feature of the call."

Egide says most of their complaints come from consumers over debt collection. "This year, so far, and we're almost at the end of 2013, we've got almost 300 complaints against what I would call legitimate collection agencies, and we have roughly at least 100 against fake debt collectors."

If you are being harassed Egide says you should get in contact with the department as soon as possible. You can reach the consumer line at WDFI at 800-452-3328 or online at http://wdfi.org/wca/consumer_credit/complaints_and_questions.htm