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Attorney General Martha Coakley's Guide to Fair Debt Collection

Your Rights

Under Massachusetts Law

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s Debt Collection Regulations prohibit
many unfair debt collection practices by creditors, 940 C.M.R. 7.00, and regulations
of the Massachusetts Division of Banks prohibit unfair debt collection practices
by debt collection agencies, 209 CMR 18.00.

When communicating directly with you, creditors and collection agencies may
not:

  • Call you at home more than twice for each debt in any seven-day period,
    or more than twice for each debt in any thirty-day period at some place other
    than your home, such as your place of work.
  • Call you at work if you have requested that they not call. Your oral request
    that a collector not call you at work is valid for ten (10) days only. Written
    requests are valid until you write to the collector removing the restriction.
  • Call you without identifying both the name of the creditor and the name
    of the person calling. The caller may use a name other than his or her own,
    but the creditor or collection agency on whose behalf the call is being made
    must be able to identify that person.
  • Contact you directly, if you have told the creditor or collection agency
    you are represented by an attorney.
  • Use profane or obscene language.
  • Cause expense to you in the form of long distance calls, express mail
    charges, wire fees, or other similar charges.
  • Falsely threaten to take legal action that the creditor does not take
    or reasonably intend to take.
  • Tell anyone (including your friends, neighbors, relatives, or employers)
    about your debt, without your written consent.
  • Mail to you any printed or written materials that reveal or imply that
    you owe a debt (for example, by using a postcard to contact you or using
    a descriptive return address).
  • Solicit post-dated checks from you.
  • Visit your home at times other than your normal waking hours. A collector
    may not visit you more than once in any thirty-day period for each debt,
    unless you give permission for additional visits.
  • Call you at times other than your normal waking hours. If your waking
    hours are unknown, then the collector may only call between 8:00 a.m. and
    9:00 p.m.

Additional Rights

  • A creditor must allow you or your attorney to inspect any document on
    which the creditor is relying to prove that you owe the debt being collected,
    e.g., a credit card application, account statement, promissory note, ledger,
    account card, or similar record in the creditor’s possession, which
    reflects the date and amount of payments, credits and charges related to
    the debt. Failure to do so is an unfair or deceptive act or practice under
    the Attorney General’s Debt Collection Regulations, 940 CMR 7.08.
  • Under State and Federal Law, if you want all debt collection contact to
    stop, and it is a debt collection agency (as opposed to the creditor itself)
    that is contacting you, you have the right to make a request in writing that
    all such contact stop. 15 U.S.C. 1692c(c), 209 CMR 18.14(3). Once you have
    made such a written request, the debt collection agency may not contact you
    again; however, the agency will still be permitted to sue you to try and
    collect the debt.

Note:

Creditors and debt collection agencies are permitted to try to locate a
debtor by contacting persons other than the debtor or persons residing in
the debtor’s household, if the creditor or debt collection agency reasonably
believes that it no longer has current information on the debtor’s
location. However, it may not inform anyone it calls about your debt.

Produced by Martha Coakley, Attorney General Commonwealth of Masachusetts
Created January, 2007

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