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Florida residents who are faced with an ever-increasing mountain of debt are probably quite familiar with calls from debt collectors. While some of them are polite and follow the laws regarding prohibited actions, some become hostile or profane and berate debtors for their inability to pay.

But none may be as bad as this scenario from Minnesota, where a former debt collector was recently sentenced to over 14 years in prison for identity theft related to his scores of debt collection cases. This man used his access to debtors’ personal information to co-opt their identities and steal money from their accounts. Even worse, he frequently threatened the disabled and elderly. Perhaps his most egregious threat was to a disabled veteran. He told the man he would push his wheelchair off of a bridge with him in it unless he paid his debt.

While his case is unusual due to its extreme nature, when it comes to debt collection, it pays to know your rights. When contacted by a debt collector, always ask for them to send you written verification of your debt. They may not be able to produce it, which also means they will be unsuccessful collecting it should you dispute the debt.

If you are unable to pay the debt in full, ask about a settlement offer. Many times, they will accept pennies on the dollar just to get something from the debtor.

It never hurts to dispute the legitimacy of a debt, especially if you don’t remember owing it or are unsure of the amount.

Sometimes, however, the best solution possible for those with overwhelming debt is filing bankruptcy and beginning anew. A Florida legal professional can explain your options and address any questions you may have regarding the process.

Source: Yahoo, “Debt Collector Sentenced to Over 14 Years in Prison” Christine DiGangi, Aug. 25, 2014