FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. Are the collection activities of a debt collector governed or restricted in any way?
A. Yes. Both federal law and Massachusetts law and regulations govern the actions of a debt collector. In general a debt collector may not harass or abuse a consumer; make false or misleading representations to a debtor; or use unfair of unconscionable means to collect a debt from a consumer. Numerous examples of such prohibited practices are set out in the Division's regulations, 209 CMR 18.00. In Massachusetts, debt collectors are licensed by the Division of Banks.
Q. How do I know if a debt collector is licensed?
A. A listing of licensed debt collectors is available on the Division's website and is updated regularly. That information can also be obtained by calling the Division at (800) 495-2265, extension 1501 or (617) 956-1501.
Q. I have been contacted by a debt collector. What should I do?
A. You should take action since you will likely be contacted again. The Division has published consumer guidance entitled "WHEN IN DEBT KNOW YOUR RIGHTS". That information is also applicable to you if you do not owe the debt. The Federal Trade Commission enforces the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and has information on its website.
Q. I have a complaint about the actions of the debt collector who has been contacting me. What can I do?
A. You can file a complaint against a licensed debt collector with the Division of Banks. Our complaint formsare on our website and can be filed electronically. You can also contact the Division's Consumer Assistance Unit at (800) 495-2265, extension 1501 or (617) 956-1501.
Q. I was erroneously contacted about a debt which was not mine and documented that in writing to the debt collector. Is there anything else I should do?
A. Yes. You should also check your credit report to insure that the incorrect information is not listed. By law you have the right to obtain a copy of your credit report for free once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can obtain your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Q. I owe money to the store where I purchased goods or services. The store has been contacting me for repayment. Do you license the store?
A. The Division of Banks licenses debt collectors, including debt buyers, but does not license retailers collecting their own debts. If you have a problem with a retailer you should contact the Office of the Attorney Generalwho has jurisdiction over collection practices of creditors collecting their own debts. The Attorney General's Consumer Hotline number is (617) 727-8400.
Q. I have been contacted about a debt by an entity which is not the creditor or a licensed debt collector. What should I do?
A. You have the right to dispute the debt in writing. Additionally you should submit the communication from the entity that contacted you to the Division of Banks. The Division issues cease activity letters to entities not authorized to collect debt in the Commonwealth. The Division's address is 1000 Washington Street, 10th Floor, Boston, MA 02118-6400 and can be contacted at (800) 495-2265, extension 1501 or (617) 956-1501.
Q. I owed a debt to Company A. I now have been called by Company X who said that they now own my debt. Is that possible? Is this legal?
A. The practice is legal. A creditor may sell a contract evidencing your debt to another company. Such sales frequently occur in business. For example, most people will find that the mortgage debt they sign when they purchase their home is subsequently sold to another company.
Q. I have been called by a debt collector demanding payment of a debt of my deceased parent. Is this legal?
A. You are not personally responsible for the debts of a deceased parent. If, however, you are the legal representative of your deceased parent's estate, you may be required to make payment out of the proceeds of the estate.
Q. As a small business owner am I protected in any way from a debt collector as a consumer is?
A. No. Both state and federal law protect consumers only in transactions which are primarily for personal, family, or household purposes.