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NEW YORK — Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city's department of consumer affairs recently announced new debt collection regulations that govern all industry segments, including recovery agents.

According to the new regulations that cover all five of the city's boroughs, collection and recovery agents now must provide proof the debt is owed at the consumer's request. City officials also indicated the agents must provide a copy of the original debt documentation, a copy of the final account statement of the originating debt, a document itemizing the remaining amount due, including any additional fees or charges claimed to be due and the basis of the consumer's obligation to pay them.

Furthermore, officials went on to detail that agents also must be aware of any statute of limitations or any debt payment schedule or settlement within 21 days of an agreement. They also emphasized that agents must give a contact number that's answered by a live operator, not an answering service.

Bloomberg issued this long list of guidelines because he believes a multitude of city residents are "being harassed about debts they don't owe." He added the problem has increased since the national economy began to slip into recession back in late 2007.

"New Yorkers have long had strong protections when it comes to debt collection — in fact, the strongest local protections in the country," Bloomberg insisted.

"As the national recession worsened, exploitative debt collection schemes have become more brazen. Collectors get lists online and harass everyone with the same name on the list, putting every person they call on the defensive," he continued.

"The measures we are announcing will help stop this rising tide of wrongful and financially harmful collection tactics, and protect New Yorkers from their often damaging consequences," Bloomberg added.

Because of agents not following proper protocol in 2009, the city's department of consumer affairs said wrongful debt collection topped its list of complaints for the second year in a row. Officials indicated they received more than 830 complaints against debt collectors last year.

Officials reiterated that any business collecting debts from New York city residents must be licensed by the department of consumer affairs and must follow strict guidelines set by New York City law. They added that currently there are approximately 1,700 licensed debt collectors from all over the country attempting to collect debts from New York City residents.

"Wrongful debt collection is more than just annoying and stressful," consumer affairs commissioner Jonathan Mintz declared.

"Such wrongful collection attempts can cause serious and long-term damage to a family's finances, including seized bank accounts, damaged credit ratings and more," Mintz concluded.