A federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers against certain unfair collection practices. It applies only to outside, or third-party debt collectors (not creditors collecting their own debts) and only for personal (not business) debts. State laws may provide additional protection. The FDCPA makes certain collection activities illegal, and a collection agency who breaks the law can be sued for statutory damages. The top illegal activities taken by collection agencies are:
1. Calling You Repeatedly to Annoy or Harass YouThe law: Collectors can’t call repeatedly just to harass you. (However there is no specific number of calls that they can make within a given time period. That’s left up to the courts to decide.) If you think a debt collector is calling too often, start making a record of every time they call and any messages they leave.
2. Trying to Collect More Than You OweThe law: Debt collectors may be allowed to charge interest on debts they are collecting. But they can’t charge more than the amount described in the original contract or what is permitted by law. In other words, they can’t illegally inflate debts. But that doesn’t mean some don’t try!
3. Fail to Send a Written Notice of the DebtThe law: Within five days of initially contacting you, the collector must send written notice of the debt that includes:
- The amount of the debt
- The name of the original creditor to whom the debt is owed
- A statement describing your right to dispute the debt
4. Threatening ViolenceThe law: Debt collectors may not threaten violence when collecting debts. Period.
5. Threatening Dire ConsequencesThe law: Collectors can’t threaten a lawsuit, criminal prosecution, wage garnishment, jail time, or to ruin your credit rating unless they have the legal authority to do so, and intend to do so. These threats are often illegal. Collectors must usually take you to court first and win before they can take these kinds of actions — if they are legal in the first place.
6. Using Obscene, Profane or Abusive LanguageThe law: Obscene, profane or abusive language—including racial slurs—is illegal. Debt collector going overboard? Take notes and tell them you’ll be taping the conversation.
7. Calling Before 8 a.m. or After 9 p.m.The law: Collectors may not call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. (unless you’ve given them permission to do so), or at times you’ve told them are inconvenient.
8. Revealing Debt to Third PartiesThe law: Collectors can call third parties such as family, neighbors, friends or co-workers only to locate the debtor. When they do, they can’t reveal the debt and there are limits on repeated calls.
9. Calling You at Work After You’ve Told Them to StopThe law: If you tell a collector not to call you at work to discuss the debt, those calls must stop. And debt collectors cannot discuss debts with co-workers except in very limited circumstances (when executing a legal wage garnishment, for example).
10. Failing to Verify Disputed DebtsThe law: If you dispute a collection account in writing, the collector must stop trying to collect until it provides written verification of the debt.
11. Ignoring Cease Communication RequestsThe law: Consumers have the right to tell a debt collector, in writing, to stop contacting them. Once the debt collector gets that notice, contact must stop, except to send notification of legal action against the debt collector.
How to Get HelpIf you think a debt collector has broken the law, contact the Law Offices of Joseph I Harrison at 347-770-0072 to speak with an experienced credit repair & debt defense attorney within the hour. We also offer a free case evaluation with an online form, so you can tell us about your personal situation and receive a call back from a staff attorney. We have extensive experience with consumer law and are dedicated to resolving our clients’ financial problems with cost-effective and friendly service. Our legal team can protect you from debt collection harassment and defend a pending lawsuit or garnishment, in addition to repairing your credit. Contact us today for the help you need.
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