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Consumer Alert: Proposed rule change could let debt collectors get more aggressive

Posted: Updated:

New rules proposed in Washington could allow debt collectors to get a lot more aggressive as they try to collect.

The proposal by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would allow debt collectors to start sending text messages and emails, and call up to seven times a week.

PODCAST: Walt Kane talks to National Consumer Law Center attorney Joanna Darcus about the proposed regulations:

 A spokesperson for the CFPB says, "The rule does not allow debt collectors to send an unlimited number of text messages or emails [because it] would require [them] to include… an option consumers can use to unsubscribe."

But if complaints to the Federal Trade Commission are any indication, unsubscribing may be harder than it sounds. Last year, the group received more than 200,000 complaints from customers about debt collectors who kept calling after being told to stop.

"Seven calls is just too many. We need a lower limit," says Joanna Darcus, with the National Consumer Law Center. "This rule stops far short of actually protecting consumers, and instead gives license to debt collectors to use more modern means of technology to continue to reach out to and harass consumers."

So what can you do if debt collectors won't leave you alone? To stop texts or emails, you'll have to unsubscribe for each bad debt. To stop phone calls, send a registered letter. Be sure to give them another way to reach you -- for example, by a post office box.

If the calls still don't stop, you can pursue legal action.

One in three Americans has at least one past-due debt, according to three credit reporting agencies.

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