Whether you owe a debt or not, you have rights when it comes to how a debt collector contacts you. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) requires that debt collectors treat you fairly and prohibits certain methods of debt collection. The FDCPA covers entities who regularly collect debts on behalf of their clients including collection agencies and some law firms. The original owner of the debt is not subject to the FDCPA.

Debt collectors who violate the FDCPA may be liable to you for compensation. If a collector has broken the law, you may be able to bring a claim to recover money for you plus have your costs and attorney’s fees paid by the other side.

Illegal Debt Collection

Below is a summary of the kinds of things a debt collector cannot do when attempting to collect a debt from you.

While a debt collector is allowed to collect a debt that is properly owed, the collector may not harass you. “Harassment” includes:

  • contacting you at an unusual time or place or time known to be inconvenient to you (especially if it is before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. — your time).
  • contacting you at your workplace after you told the debt collector not to call you there, or contacting you after the collector knows you are represented by a lawyer.
  • using or threatening violence or harm to you, a loved one or your property.
  • using abusive, obscene or profane language
  • engaging in abusive telephone use such as insulting or abusing you or repeatedly or continuously causing a telephone to ring to harass or annoy you.

You have the right to stop collection calls by telling the debt collector in writing that you do not want to be called anymore. This will not eliminate the debt, but it should stop the calls. If it does not, the collector may have violated the FDCPA.

A debt collector is not allowed to use false or misleading statements to collect a debt such as misrepresenting the character, amount or legal status of the debt, claiming to be an attorney or law firm if that is not true, hiding its true identity or use a false name of its company, or falsely implying that you committed a crime or may go to jail.

A debt collector must also tell you in its initial communication that the collector is attempting to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose, and all future communications from the debt collector must advise you the communication is from a debt collector.

A debt collector is prohibited from threatening violence or harm to you, a loved one or your property. A debt collector is also not allowed to threaten to take any action against you (such as sue you) unless the collector is legally allowed to take such action and actually intends to do so.
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Validating the Debt

Within 5 days of its initial communication with you, a debt collector must send a written notice containing certain information about the debt and your rights to timely obtain verification of the debt.

If you notify a debt collector in writing within 30 days of receiving the “validation notice” that you dispute the debt or that you request proof of the debt, all debt collection must stop until the debt collector obtains verification of the debt and sends it to you.

What To Do If A Debt Collector Is Harassing You

  • Keep careful track of all communications.
  • If the communication is in writing, do not throw it away! Save the letter and the envelope. Write the date the letter arrived on the envelope.
  • If you dispute any part of the debt, tell the debt collector in writing. It need not be a formal or long letter. Simply tell the collector that you dispute the debt and want verification of the debt. Do not cite laws or threaten legal action. Do this as soon as possible after your first communication with the debt collector. Make a copy of the letter. Send it via certified mail, and keep the receipts.
  • If a debt collector has left a telephone message or voice mail, save it.
  • Do not record a telephone conversation with a debt collector without first knowing whether you can legally record the conversation. Some states require the consent of both parties to tape. You could get sued. You should get competent legal advice before you record telephone conversations.
  • When talking to a debt collector, do not become abusive, insulting, or use profanity. Do not threaten legal action or cite laws. Keep good notes of the conversation, including what is said by each of you. Keep track of the date and time of call, name and phone number of collection agency, and name of the debt collector.
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If you have been the victim of abusive debt collection, we invite you to contact us to set up a FREE TELEPHONE CONSULTATION as to your rights.

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