The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
If you’re like many people who are struggling with past-due bills, you may feel that you have no options. It’s common for people who are deep in debt and can’t find a way out to feel demoralized. Self-esteem suffers, and you blame yourself when a debt collector calls you 25 times in a single day.
That’s exactly what some debt collectors are counting on.
Of course, not every debt collector is dishonest or abusive. Some are just doing their jobs and following the rules. On the other hand, collection abuses are a serious enough problem that the federal government found it necessary to enact legislation to reign in those practices.
The worst debt collectors will lie to you and threaten you in hopes of intimidating you into making bad decisions that benefit them. That’s why it’s important that you know your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
The Dangers of Listening to Debt Collectors
The worst source of information about your legal rights and advice about your best course of action is debt collectors. However, many consumers who are under stress and feeling cornered believe what debt collectors tell them. Sometimes, the debt collector tells the truth.
Other times, the debt collector tells a lie such as:
- You will be charged criminally if you don’t make payment
- I have checked and you don’t qualify for bankruptcy
- We’re sending someone to your office right now unless I get a payment from you over the phone
- We just need a small payment as a gesture of good faith—even $10—to keep this from going to the attorney
It’s only natural that a person believing they are about to be arrested or embarrassed at work would take quick action, and that’s just what dishonest debt collectors hope for when they lie to you.
Fortunately, the FDCPA protects you from deceptive and abusive debt collection practices.
Debts Covered by the FDCPA
The FDCPA applies to only certain types of debt. Generally, the statute applies if:
- The debt was incurred by a consumer rather than a business, for personal or household purposes; and
- The debt collector is a third-party collector such as a debt collection agency or debt buyer.
The FDCPA does not apply to original creditors such as your credit card company or a hospital that provided services to you.
FDCPA Restrictions on Debt Collectors
The FDCPA creates a wide range of limitations on debt collector actions. Some of the most commonly violated are discussed below.
Debt Collectors May Not Give Information about Your Debt to Third Parties
Although debt collectors are generally permitted to contact family and friends for the limited purpose of obtaining information about your location, they are not allowed to discuss your debt, leave messages with third parties or make repeated uninvited calls to third parties.
Debt Collectors May not Use Harassing or Abusive Tactics
- Harassment and abuse under the FDCPA includes:
- Threats of violence or other criminal activity;
- Use of profane or obscene language;
- Repeated telephone calls for the purpose of harassment; and
- Failure to disclose the caller’s identity.
Debt Collectors May Not Make False or Misleading Representations
- Some of the most common misrepresentations debt collectors make in violation of the FDCPA include:
- False claims or implications that a lawsuit has been filed or is about to be filed;
- Use of titles, badges, uniforms, or other props to create a false impression of legal authority;
- Misrepresentation of the legal status of the debt;
- False representations that failure to pay a debt will result in arrest, garnishment, seizure of property or other legal consequences;
- The false implication that documents are legal process.
Validation of Debts Under the FDCPA
Debt collectors are required to provide consumers with notice of the right to dispute a debt. When a debt has been disputed, the debt collector must obtain validation of that debt, and must cease all collection activities pending such validation.
Your Remedies Under the FDCPA
The actions listed above represent a high-level overview of some of the most commonly violated provisions of the FDCPA. A debt collector who has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act may be liable to you for actual damages plus up to $1,000. The more serious the violation and the more frequent and persistent the prohibited behavior is, the more likely you will be to recover damages from the debt collector.
If you’re being harassed by debt collectors, have been threatened in violation of the law, or are hearing from your friends and family that a collection agency or debt buyer is harassing them in an effort to collect a debt from you, you have rights.
Talk to a Consumer Protection Lawyer
If you’re being harassed by debt collectors, have been subjected to abusive collection tactics, have erroneous information on your credit report that you’ve been unable to clear up or otherwise believe your rights have been violated, get in touch today. You may be entitled to financial recovery.Just click on the button below or call us at (562) 257-6576.