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An early response is often the key to debt problems. Do not ignore demand letters or legal papers from your creditors! Many individuals take this approach if they disagree with the bill or don't have enough money to pay the entire bill. This is a mistake that will probably lead to much larger problems. The Coast Guard Work-Life program & legal assistance can help. However, you need to get us involved early in the process.

The following discussion on one of the issues concerning indebtedness is from our consumer law page.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

For anyone who has ever experienced the debt collection process, it can be excruciating and hostile (whether or not you actually owe the money sought). As a consumer, you have certain rights when dealing with a debt collector or collection agency. First of all, a debt collector or collection agency is someone hired to collect a debt (as opposed to the creditor, the person claiming that you owe them money). Your rights include:

  1. The debt collector must notify the debtor of the nature of the debt and the identity of the creditor. If the debtor asks that the debt be verified, the debt collector must cease collection efforts until the debt is verified,

  2. The debtor may tell the debt collector to stop correspondence or telephone calls,

  3. The debt collector may contact third parties about the debt only under certain limited circumstances, and

  4. The debt collector may not harass or abuse any person in connection with the debt. The debt collector may not contact the debtor at unusual or inconvenient times or places (before 0800 or after 2100), including the debtor's place of work if such calls are prohibited there.

To learn more about the debt collection protections, consult with your legal assistance attorney or check out this FTC advisory. (You're leaving a federal government web site.)

Last Modified 4/3/2015