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TikTok mom Shaunna Burns used to be a debt collector, so she knows a few things about what’s legal and what’s not when a company contacts you to settle a debt. We fact-checked her advice with a legal expert: Jenifer Bosco, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center.
Bosco said most of Burns’ advice totally checks out.
A recent report from ProPublica shows that debt collectors have thrived during the pandemic; they’re out in force to get people to pay up. But we have rights. Scroll down for some consumer protection resources.
You don’t need to have heard our earlier episode about Burns and her story; you can start right here. (Both conversations contain lots of strong language, so maybe listen when the kids aren’t around.)
Meanwhile, here are links to resources:
- The National Consumer Law Center, where Jenifer Bosco works, publishes the book Surviving Debt. It’s free to read online at https://library.nclc.org/sd
- Consumer-finance expert Gerri Detweiler, who helped fact-check a big question for this episode, has a very useful-looking site called Debt Collection Answers. She just published a new article with answers to questions like “Can medical bills be sent to collections if you’re making payments?” (yep) and “How do I dispute a medical bill in collections?”
Burns’ Dealing-With-Debt-Collectors TikTok Videos
Be sure to note Jen Bosco’s legal caveats, but Burns will get you in the fighting spirit.
- Rapid-fire advice: Debt collectors can’t just call whenever they want. There’s a statute of limitations on debt. You can — and should — demand documentation.
- If they can’t document that the debt is valid … you have options.
- You’re under no obligation to give them any information.
- If the debt is valid, be nice. Take the calls. You may eventually be able to work out an OK deal.
“An Arm and a Leg” is a co-production of Kaiser Health News and Public Road Productions.
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