The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is taking its first step toward reining in debt collectors, releasing an early outline of rules aimed at preventing them from harassing consumers and trying to collect debts that don't exist.

The proposal, which will be discussed Thursday at a CFPB hearing in Sacramento, would require collection companies to do more to verify information about debts before contacting consumers, limit the number of times a collector can call or email consumers, and make it easier for consumers to dispute debts and put the collections process on hold.

Scott Pearson, an attorney at Ballard Spahr who represents financial-services firms, said debt collectors know there are problems in the industry and that the CFPB's proposal could address some of those. "There have been lots and lots of consumer complaints resulting from attempts to collect by debt buyers who don't have proper documentation," he said. "Most people in the industry would acknowledge this is a problem. There are situations where someone is trying to collect a debt that's already been paid. Nobody wants that."