GROVER, Mo. (Legal Newsline) - The Missouri Collectors Association, following a report by the Attorney General's Office that debt collection is the state's top consumer complaint, says debt collection is not a scam.

On Friday, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster announced debt collectors topped his office's list of the top 10 consumer complaints and scams in 2010.

Koster said his office received more than 2,200 calls from consumers about problems with debt collectors.

"Even though you may be responsible for the debt the collectors are calling about, there are federal laws governing just how far the debt collector can go," the attorney general said in a statement. "Your best protection against harassing and abusive calls from debt collectors is to know your rights."

In a statement on Monday, the Missouri Collectors Association said it wanted "to clarify that debt collection is a legitimate, legal activity governed by federal and Missouri law."

"Missourians should not avoid debt collectors or dismiss being contacted as a scam without verifying it first," Missouri Collectors Association President Roger Weiss said in a statement.

"We understand that consumer complaints are high and collectors are actively working to prevent, reduce and resolve them, but the vast majority of debt collection activity is legitimate," Weiss said.

"It's imperative to address a debt collection inquiry head-on because a consumer's failure to act could have a negative impact on their ability to get future credit."

The association, it said, is "actively working with" the attorney general and other state leaders to "put an end to illegal and deceptive activities meant to intentionally deceive or mislead consumers as it seeks to ensure a balanced debt collection system that protects consumers and allows the legitimate collection of debt to function."

Weiss said, "Anything less than the legal and respectful collection of duly owed debt is simply unacceptable and those bad actors that choose an alternative path should be held accountable for their actions."

For questions relating to debt collection, Koster pointed to the Federal Trade Commission's Debt Collection FAQs: A Guide for Consumers, which can be found on the FTC's website.

The association, meanwhile, suggested website AskDoctorDebt.com, a consumer-focused resource to answer questions about debt collection and consumer rights.

The Missouri Collectors Association has more than 60 members and is a state unit of ACA International, the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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