Dear Readers: Do you have credit card debt? If you fall behind in your payments and are contacted by a debt collector, do you know your rights? How and when is a debt collector allowed to contact you?

Here are some hints, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, courtesy of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov):

- A debt collector is allowed to call you only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., local time.

- A debt collector MAY NOT contact you at your job if your employer forbids it.

- Have you lawyered up? If so, the debt collector must speak only with your attorney.

Remember, debt collectors are forbidden from threatening you, making false statements or using foul language.

- Heloise

TECH TUESDAY

Dear Readers: With news and information available to us 24/7, how do we know which news items have been vetted (verified) and which haven’t? On social media, anybody can post a “news story.” Here are some hints to filter the real from the fake:

- Who wrote/published the source material?

- Check the date of the article.

- Look out for doctored pictures.

Pause before you print/share, and make sure what you’re sharing is true and accurate. Of course, there’s a time for a funny parody or a joke, but ensure you’re not representing it as fact, and also make sure it’s not hurtful.

- Heloise

Hard inquiry

Dear Heloise: I applied for a credit card about three months ago, and the credit company initiated what’s called a “hard inquiry” on my credit. What’s that?

- Becky L. in Arizona

Becky, a company may want to know your record for paying your bills on time, so they pull your credit report or do what is called a “hard inquiry.” A hard inquiry stays on your credit report for about two years; lots of hard inquiries may look like you’re trying to go deep in debt.

So if you’re looking to get a mortgage or a car loan, it’s best to stop applying for consumer credit cards.

- Heloise

P.S. Have you ever gotten a letter stating you’re “prequalified” for a credit card? This means the company has performed a “soft inquiry” on your credit. They’ve gotten a profile of you. This doesn’t guarantee that you will be approved for the card. Soft inquiries don’t impact your credit. Other soft inquiries?

1. You’re checking your own credit.

2. A potential employer may check your credit.

3. Your auto insurance company may check, to establish premiums.

Sticker solution

Dear Heloise: In a recent column, a woman said she did not know what to do with the return-address labels sent to her by groups to whom she donated. She should cut off the picture part of the labels and separate them into topics such as patriotic, flowers, sports, holidays, etc.

Put each topic in an envelope and donate the envelopes of “free stickers” to a local elementary or middle school. The teachers can use the stickers as rewards on student papers!

- Rita P., North Canton, Ohio

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