Debt Collectors and Your Rights
Dealing with Debt Collectors Properly
If you have ever fallen behind in your bills, you were likely contacted by a debt collector at some point. Fortunately, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that protects consumers from debt collectors who use unfair or abusive tactics to attempt to collect debts. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is in charge of enforcing the FDCPA.
A debt collector, collection agency, lawyer, or company qualifies as a debt collector under the FDCPA if they collect or try to collect debts on a regular basis. All types of debt fall under the FDCPA, including mortgage loans, credit card debts, car loans, and medical bills.
Prohibited Debt Collection Practices
One important protection of the FDCPA is that it prevents debt collectors from contacting you repeatedly or at inconvenient times. Are they being abusive or aggressive. Do you know the difference? Know the law. For instance:
a.) A debt collector cannot contact you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. unless you agree to be contacted during those times.
b.) A debt collector must stop contacting you at work if you tell the debt collector that you are not allowed to receive phone calls at your workplace.
Prevent a Debt Collector from Contacting You
You also can prevent a debt collector from contacting you altogether if you wish. Although it is probably a good idea to talk to a debt collector at least once in order to attempt to resolve the matter, you can later decide that you no longer want the debt collector to contact you. If you wish to prevent any further interactions with the debt collector be sure to complete the following:
1.) Send the debt collector a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested.
2.) Keep a copy of the letter and the receipt showing that you sent the letter by certified mail.
3.) Once the debt collector receives your letter, he or she can only contact you to let you know that there will be no further contact, or that he intends to take a certain debt collection action against you, such as filing a debt collection lawsuit against you in court.
While sending such a letter to the debt collector can stop all contact by the debt collector, it will not prevent the debt collector from taking other types of action against you to collect the amount owed.
Debt collectors may contact third parties about you solely to get information about your address, phone number, and where you work. However, they typically can only contact a third party for this information once.
1.) They are not allowed to discuss your debt with third parties unless the third party is your spouse or your attorney.
2.) If you are represented by an attorney, then the debt collector cannot contact you or any other third parties about your debt.
Common Violations Committed by Debt Collectors
Unfortunately, some debt collectors engage in abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices when trying to collect debts. The FDCPA prohibits certain kinds of collection tactics by debt collectors, including the following:
1.) Harassing you, making threats, using obscenities, and making repeated phone calls;
2.) Making false statements that they are attorneys, representatives of the government, a credit reporting company, or that you have committed a crime;
3.) Telling you that you will be arrested if you do not pay your debt;
4.) Stating that they will take your property or income unless they are permitted to and intend to do so;
5.) Claiming that they will take legal action against you if doing so would be illegal or they do not intend to do so;
6.) Giving false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company;
7.) Using a false company name;
8.) Sending you anything that looks like an official court or government agency document that is not actually such a document.
Your Rights Under the Law
If you believe that a debt collector has violated the FDCPA, you have the right to file a lawsuit in federal court against the debt collector within one year of the date that the law was violated. If you win your lawsuit, you may be entitled to payment of any damages that you suffered due to the illegal collection practices, such as lost wages or medical bills. The debt collector also can be required to pay a fine of up to $1,000 dollars, as well as your attorney’s fees and court costs.
However, even if a debt collector is found to have violated the FDCPA, you still will owe the debt at issue.
- Federal Trade Commission discusses fraudulent and unfair business practices
- Free course from iTunes on how to handle Debt Collections