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Struggling with debt in New York City

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    Struggling with debt in New York City

    Struggling with debt can be scary and overwhelming but you’re not alone and am here to help. Every year we receive hundreds of complaints about debt collectors—more than any other industry. We often hear stories of collectors calling people at work or late at night or about people being harassed to pay debts that they don’t even owe. But in New York City you have powerful laws to protect you against these debt collection tactics.

    First, it’s illegal for someone to try and collect a debt unless they are licensed, so be sure to ask for their license number. You can check that it’s valid by using the instant license check on our website or by calling 311. The law also requires that when a debt collection agency calls or writes to you, they give you very specific information—the name of the debt collection agency, the name of the creditor that you owe a debt to, and the amount of the debt and the name and phone number to call.

    When you call back, a real person has to answer within 60 seconds. You should also request that they mail you written verification or proof of your debt that includes the name of the creditor and amount of the debt, information on your right to dispute the debt, and documentation of the debt, including proof from the creditor that you owe the debt, and documents that show the original amount you owe, and any other charges or fees.

    If the agency doesn't provide you with that proof and they continue to call, or if they send you proof that’s not correct, call 311 or visit nyc.gov and search for "debt collection" to file a complaint and you will be help to mediate the problem. Also if you reach a settlement or payment schedule with a debt collection company, they must send you the agreement in writing.

    Please also beware of debt settlement companies. We’ve all seen debt settlement ads that claim that a company can “cut your debt in half.” These companies usually charge high fees and advise you to stop paying your debts, which causes even more harm, like fees, damage to your credit score, and can even result in court action against you.

    Finally, there’s no reason to pay to try and get out of debt when free professional help is available. The City’s network of Financial Empowerment Centers offer one-on-one professional financial counseling in multiple languages at no cost to you.
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