Credit card debt gotcha down? You're not alone! Americans are really struggling with credit card debt these days. When you can't pay your bills, your credit card company may close your account and turn it over to collections. If that happens, understanding the credit protection laws can go a long way toward helping you get through it. When you know what to expect, and what rights you have, it may be easier to manage the stress of it all during this difficult time.

The Federal Trade Commission published the complete text of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act as a service to the public.  Many states also have their own laws on the subject.  The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that debt collectors treat you fairly and prohibits certain methods of debt collection.

Under the law, debt collectors can not resort to certain tactics when attempting to collect your debt.  They can't harass you (threaten you with violence, etc.), they can't use obscene language, and they can't repeatedly use the telephone to annoy you, among other things.  They also can't give make false statement - like telling you they are attorneys or threaten you with legal action, unless they actually do intend to utilize the legal process.  Learn more about Fair Debt Collection Practices here.

You can always write a letter to the debt collector, asking them to stop contacting you to collect payment.  Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact or to notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action.  Of course, this doesn't eliminate debt you actually owe.  The creditor can still sue you for the money owed.

For related information, check out the Federal Reserve Board's Consumer Handbook to Credit Protection Laws, which explains how the consumer credit laws can help you shop for credit, apply for it, maintain your credit standing, and, if need be, complain about an unfair deal.