Question: I read your article about the guy in Dallas who fought back against debt collectors and sued them successfully. What are my rights when dealing with collection agents and how can I tell when they’re crossing the line? — R. Keane, Wilmington, N.C.
Answer: No question that Craig Cunningham, the gentleman you referenced, is getting a lot of media attention for taking on overly aggressive debt collectors and winning. (Here's the full story on how he accomplished that).
But Cunningham might be the first to admit that the state he resides in — Texas — has tougher laws on what debt collection agents can and cannot say when dealing with the public.
So, your first job is to contact your state attorney general’s office and find out the local rules on debt collection practices. According to the U.S. Justice Department’s Web site, the Attorney General contact for you in North Carolina is George E. B. Holding (919) 856-4530.
For a complete list of attorneys general in all 50 states, visit the Justice Department Web site.
There are also some steps you can take on your own to learn how to fight back against aggressive debt collectors. Cunningham went to school on consumer debt Web sites like DebtorBoards.com and FatWallet.com (where Cunningham dispensed debt collection advice on the site’s debt forum, under the moniker CodeName47).
To keep debt collection agents off your back, send a cease and desist letter to any debt collector who calls your home, demanding that they stop calling. Most states have laws that stop collection agents from calling you on the phone if you ask them.
Also, never give a collection agent personal contact information (i.e., where you work, what bank you use, or what clubs or associations you belong to).