Tired of Debt Collectors’ Harassing Calls? You Could Get Texts and Emails

Tired of debt collectors’ harassing calls? Their newest tactics could involve pestering you through texts and emails — maybe even on Facebook.

If a recently proposed update to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is approved, collectors would be limited to calling you seven times a week per debt, but they could send you unlimited emails and texts.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is seeking to update the law that was passed in 1977.

The FTC enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which was originally passed to provide consumers with legal protection from abusive, unfair or deceptive debt collection practices.

Both consumer advocates and debt collection companies say the law is out of date, particularly since digital communications weren’t an option when the law was created, according to Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C.

However, based on his early analysis and discussions with others in the industry, McClary actually laughed when asked how the updates would help consumers more than the current law.

“I think a lot of consumer advocates are very concerned that there is less in here for the consumer and more in these rules for the debt collection agencies,” McClary said.

How FDCPA Updates Could Affect Debt Collections

We should start by emphasizing the proposed change was only released on Tuesday, so the experts are still sifting through the text and discussing how it could affect debt collection practices, according to McClary.

“But there are some things that people need to be aware that could actually make it a little bit more difficult for those who owe a debt and are being contacted by debt collectors,” he said.

Here’s how the changes could affect you.

How Many Calls From a Debt Collector Is Considered Harassment?

According to the proposed rule, anything over seven in one week in regards to a specific debt is considered harassment. And once the collector has spoken with the consumer, the collection agency must wait a week before calling the consumer again in regards to the debt.

That may seem reasonable, but many people who are overdue on debts rarely owe on only one account, McClary points out.  

“If you think about it, a person might not just owe one debt — they may have three debts in collections, so that’s 21 attempted contacts per week that would be allowed,” he said. “It’s easy to understand how this might add a little more stress than some of the regulations that are currently in place.”

How Debt Collectors Could Utilize Electronic Communications

The next part in the proposed law opens up options for other communications from debt collectors, including via email and text.

You’d have the option to unsubscribe from future communications via these methods, the proposed law states. It is designed to modernize communication options for consumers more used to using inboxes than mailboxes.

However, one of the protections within the current FDCPA is the right to demand a debt validation letter, which third-party debt collectors are required to send to you upon request.

Pro Tip

A debt validation letter must include how much you owe, who you owe it to and what action you can take. It is one of the main tools to catch mistakes or frauds.

If debt collectors send you an email, they could use it as an opportunity to start collecting payments without clearly explaining information you have the right to know, according to McClary.

“There’s the possibility that they could include DocuSign elements in these emails that allow for people to request validation of debt — or to enter into agreements to repay the debt,” he said.

And unlike phone calls, there’s no mention on a limit for the number of contacts when it comes to electronic communications.

Social Media Options for Debt Collection

The proposed change also left the door open for social media exchanges, which could offer new opportunities for collection agencies to reach consumers where they are.

However, the current law prohibits debt collectors from disclosing any information about the debt — or even the reason for the contact — to anyone other than the person who owes the debt, according to McClary. That discretion becomes more challenging in the world of social media.

“There’s one debt collector that even suggested that if some of the changes… go into effect, they’ll be able to use social media tools like WhatsApp to contact people,” McClary said. “That’s a little more alarming. There are privacy issues when you start talking about social media as a communications tool for debt collectors.”

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

For now, the changes to the FDCPA are only proposals, so you can still rely on mail communication options like debt validation letters and debt verification letters You can also demand that debt collectors stop contacting you at certain times or places (like your work), according to McClary.

He also notes that some states provide consumer protection above and beyond the FDCPA, which you can find out about by heading to your state’s attorney general website.

“These states are already looking at ways to update their own regulations once changes are put in place on a national level,” he said.

And as far as what the future may hold, “it’s really too soon to tell,” McClary said. “Exercise your right to control the conversation as the act is written in its present form.”

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then say hi to her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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PSA: Dry, Tired Eyes + Allergies = Bad News

stock photo of a woman's eyes with her face covered by a scarf.

2019 Update: This post was originally posted on Apr. 4, 2012, but we’ve updated links and images below… so we’re changing the date to allow for newer commentary. Do you suffer from tired eyes and allergies? Share your story with us! 

This isn’t entirely a “beauty Wednesday” feature, but as we head into spring allergy season I thought I’d remind everyone to take very good care of your eyes, particularly if you wear contacts. You see, I had a serious scare with my eyes because when I first started working at my law firm, I didn’t know four things:
a) how dry the office air was
b) how dry my eyes were naturally
c) how much allergies affected my eyes — it never occurred to me to check beneath the lids of my eyes to see all the little raised bumps that allergies put there
d) how surprisingly easy to do serious damage to your eyes if you have the above 3 conditions and are also not taking the best care of your contacts

dry eyes and allergies

The first year at my law firm, I wore contacts about 90% of the time (contacts I was supposed to wear for 8-12 hours a day and throw away every 2 weeks… neither of which happened), and loved (LOVED) to get home after a long day at the office and rub my eyes for like a minute. Aaaaah – felt so good! When allergy season hit, my lack of knowledge (those damned little bumps!) meant I was done for — unbeknownst to me, I was basically exfoliating my corneas.  (Pictured: Allergy eye, originally uploaded to Flickr by Pahz.)

It probably didn’t help that I was working long hours — 16-18 hour days weren’t that uncommon.  Over the course of a few weeks, my eyes turned a little pink, then got watery.  Then I noticed that my vision was blurry, even if I was just wearing my glasses. (Actually, especially if I was wearing my glasses — so I wore my contacts more.) One day, I met my younger brother for lunch near the office, and he grabbed my shoulders, leaned close to inspect my eyes, and said, “Kat, your eyes look sick. Like, yellow and dull.” I went back to the office and found an eye doctor.

The next day, the ophthalmologist took one look and sent me to a cornea specialist. He looked through his scope, and began drawing what he said was my eyeball — first a big circle, then lots and lots and lots of little circles. He started dotting at the paper, almost making jabbing motions. “This is what you’re doing to your eyes,” he said. I hadn’t hit the cornea — yet — but I was very close to rubbing through the layer that protects your cornea. He ordered me to stop wearing all eye makeup, to wear nothing but glasses, to rest my eyes whenever I wasn’t using them, and — oh yes — to keep a pretty vigorous, semi-hourly routine of drops, some OTC, some prescribed. (For years after this I kept using the OTC stuff — Theratears Gel — every night before I went to bed, and highly recommend them to anyone who has dry eyes.) Leaving his office in my eyeglasses, I realized I could barely see the difference between the street and the curb.

Long story short: after about two weeks of this routine, I was back in eye makeup and contacts, and could pack my audiobooks away, but I learned a lifelong lesson: never take your eyes for granted! According to my cornea specialist (who I still see every six months), it took about a year for my eyes to recover completely.  I consider myself very, very lucky.  Some major tips I learned from the experience:

1. If your eyes are itchy because of spring allergies, avoid rubbing your eyes. 

I still remember how much I loved to rub my eyes — but these days if I’m not removing eye-makeup, I’m not touching my eyes.

2. Blink! If you have dry eyes, try to blink more often. 

If you’re using a computer frequently you’re probably blinking less — there are actually apps you can download to help you remember to blink. Take a break every hour from the computer and try to really focus on blinking more frequently.

3. Be wary of using Visine to get the red out if your eyes are red — at least, not on a daily basis.

If you have a big meeting and want your red eyes (either from allergies, dryness, or whatever reason) to go away, maybe break out the Visine — but it’s actually drying to your eyes, which only exacerbates the problem. Use a product like Theratears to keep your eyes moist throughout the day, and talk with your eye doctor about whether prescription drops are appropriate to help with your symptoms.  (I’ve never used them, but a quick look at the Visine website shows that they now have products for allergies and dry, tired eyes.)

4. Reconsider wearing daily contacts if you have dry eyes, a dry office, allergies, or all of the above. 

At the very least, get a pair of glasses to keep at the office so you can take your contacts out if you’re working late. 2017 Update: Here’s our latest discussion on affordable eyeglasses you can get online.

5. Consider getting a humidifier if your office air is dry.

Humidifiers can really help with dry office air — but be careful to clean it regularly — the mold can be even worse for your health. I really like this humidifier because it’s so easy to clean.

6. Follow the directions on your contact use.

While my contact use wasn’t egregious (I wasn’t sleeping in them, although I did probably wear them for 16 hours, and keep a pair about 4x longer than directed), my eye doctor recommended I wear glasses most of the time after this incident. I tried rigid gas permeable lenses for a while, but now I ultimately prefer single-use contacts for dry eyes.  (I looked into LASIK for myself, and while my regular doctor thought I could do the procedure, a doctor I saw for a second opinion said he wouldn’t chance it, considering how dry my eyes are.)

Ladies, have you had any health scares caused by seemingly normal activities?  Do you suffer from allergies, dry eyes, or other eye woes?

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Never Tired: Fatigue Pants For Every Budget

The triumvirate of classic men’s casual pants? Blue jeans, khakis, and fatigue pants. They rule over all others. The renewability and adaptability of these styles keeps them relevant year after year after year, whether “classic style” is the prevailing style for men or not. Since before Cady Heron wore Army pants with flip flops (in 2004 (!)), olive drab, military-derived pants have been cool (with someone, somewhere) for decades.

How people choose to wear fatigues changes, of course. The current taste for them likely has something to do with nostalgia for the 1990s, when baggier shapes were the standard for men and women. Slim shirts for women and shoe-swallowing hems for all. The return has been considered a welcome break from over a decade of close-to-the-body cuts, but for men, at least, looser fatigues have always been there.

There have been piles of olive drab milsurp pants in thrift and vintage stores for as long as I can remember (fewer in real thrift stores in the last decade), designer versions since at least Maharishi in the 1990s, and today you can take your pick from surplus, to mall retail, to high end repro, to more conceptual takes. The models vary a lot: “fatigues” refer most often to the military’s work uniform from the 1950s until the late 1980s. It’s often referred to as OG 107, which refers to the color of the cloth (olive drab cotton sateen). The olive color is most often associated with the Army, but it was the work uniform across the U.S. armed forces.

The trouser design is nearly as basic as possible, although some details vary across production lots and contractors: straight (or slightly tapered appearing roughly straight) leg, button closure and fly, belt loops, button adjusters at the sides of the waist, and front and back pockets sewn as patches outside the pants. Also called utility or field pants, these pants do not have cargo pockets, articulating seams at the knees, or drawstring hems, hallmarks of the later tropical combat uniform.

We recommend fatigues all the time as a solid alternative to denim — comfortable, versatile, and without the business casual associations of plain khakis. The way I wear them I owe mostly to the styling of Daiki Suzuki and Engineered Garments, who in the late 2000s showed men that fatigues didn’t have to be sloppy. Nepenthes’ honcho Keizo Shimizu has credited Suzuki with bringing fatigues to the Japanese market in the 1980s at their Tokyo shop, Redwood.

A lot of people considered Engineered Garments’ fatigues to be the current standard; the brand makes a pair nearly every season, although the fabric and silhouette can vary. They’re great. They’re also north of $ 200 retail, which is beyond a lot of budgets. There are a good number of options out there.

$ 50-$ 100: Vintage, Earl’s Apparel/Stan Ray

Fortunately, it’s pretty cheap to give fatigues a shot. Vintage fatigues are everywhere. Many surplus stores will have them. They’re plentiful on ebay and Etsy. Some men’s contemporary retail stores have been carrying vintage pairs as well. While design and condition can vary, they’re really easier to buy, in my opinion, than vintage denim, as there’s fewer “special” features to look out for. There’s no redline selvage to look for, no hidden rivets.

There are several different makes — from the 1950s until the 1970s, the pants were made with 100% cotton sateen fabric. Then a more colorfast cotton/poly blend was introduced. It’s not worse, just different. Older models have slightly fancier buttons, with a lip on the edge; newer are flatter. When buying vintage, you just have to keep an eye on measurements — some are sized S/M/L; later models are sized by inches, so 32/34 being 32 waist, 34 inseam. Many if not most of the trousers were also altered by the owners, so measurements on worn trousers may not match the expectations given the size. Consider especially that pants were intended to be worn “bloused” — that is, tucked into boots.

A popular option for new utilities is Earl’s Apparel, the Texas company that makes camp pants under Stan Ray and Gung Ho brands. These trousers have a good rep; they’re basic and well made. Right now they’re a little hard to find in the United States — you’re more likely to see them in the UK under the Stan Ray name or in Japan labeled Gung Ho. I spoke with Jeanne Beard at Earl’s and she said she expects their “camp pants” to be more visible in the near future, although the company does not have a retail operation. In the United States, you can buy their slim fits at Snake Oil Provisions for $ 75, which is a good value. They also have a fuller, classic fit that’s currently sold out in many locations–Independence still has a couple of pairs.

Topo Designs also makes a slim fatigue pant in this price range; J. Crew’s Wallace and Barnes had a slubby cotton olive drab version this fall (they’re the ones in my photos in this post) that has sold out–you can still find them on eBay.

$ 100-$ 200: Contemporary Cuts

For some reason, my survey of the market didn’t find a lot in this range, which is a comfort zone for a lot of guys — more than basic but not a major commitment. A couple of UK-based brands have slightly upscale versions of the OG 107 pants. Albam has made a herringbone version in a modern, tapered cut, and Universal Works has a smooth-finish twill pair with side adjusters.

$ 200+: Special Fabrics and Designer Takes

At this range, you have essentially two paths: painstaking recreations of original pants, or creative riffs on fatigues. Real McCoy’s has made maybe the ideal reproduction, although availability is sparse and the price is dear. Orslow makes a slubby, sturdy cotton version that looks a lot like military issue, just new and $ 250. Monitaly has made a pair in their Vancloth fabric for a couple of seasons–baggier and tapered. Engineered Garments generally releases an olive drab version every year–sometimes in rip stop, sometimes in cotton blend, sometimes in their heavy “double cloth” — the cut can vary season to season. Their line of perennials, Workaday, usually has a sateen pair in stock in a full cut. Needles makes a wild baggy tapered style that is pretty daring and only loosely linked to the original design.

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