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Debt Collector Lies and the FDCPA

If you’re getting calls from debt collectors, chances are that you’re already under stress. You may be juggling bills, trying to decide which to pay first and which to let fall further behind. Often, the creditor or debt collector who pushes the hardest gets the payment, even if that debt isn’t your highest priority.

Debt collectors know that, which gives them a powerful incentive to create the level of pressure that will have you rattling off your debit card number before you get off the phone—and before you have time to think or to consult your spouse, your attorney or anyone else who might tell you to take a deep breath and make an objective analysis. That’s a step in the wrong direction for someone trying to hold on to what’s most important in the midst of a financial crisis.

False Representations by Debt Collectors

Unfortunately, some debt collectors aren’t above lying to achieve that goal. You may have heard some of these common debt collector lies:

  • You are responsible for your deceased father’s credit card bill
  • We’ll be filing suit against you tomorrow if this isn’t resolved by 6 p.m. today
  • You can’t file bankruptcy on medical bills
  • If you just make a small payment, even $10, we’ll be able to delay further action
  • The police are on the way to your house and you’ll be arrested if we don’t come to an agreement
  • Your bankruptcy discharge only applies to the original creditor
  • We’re sending a process server to your place of employment this afternoon
  • I am an agent of (or working with) the INS, IRS or other government agency

Of course, it can be difficult to know whether a debt collector’s statements are lies. For example, an attorney attempting to collect a debt on behalf of the owner of the debt could, if he so chose, file suit against you. However, a non-attorney collection agency doesn’t have that power, and it violates the FDCPA to tell you they do.

When in doubt, get advice. Remember that the debt collector’s high-pressure tactics are intended to force you into making a snap decision without complete information. Those threats the debt collector can make good on, like an attorney filing a lawsuit, are often far less dramatic than the debt collector implies. When a lawsuit is filed against you, you must receive notice and time to respond, and in the vast majority of cases you’ll be offered additional opportunities to settle after filing.

False Implications by Debt Collectors

Not all debt collector misrepresentations are explicit, but that doesn’t provide a convenient way for collection agencies to avoid the law. The FDCPA also prohibits misleading representations and false implications in many areas. Some of the most common include:

  • The false implication that the collector represents or is affiliated with the state or federal government, including the use of badges or other props to mislead you
  • The false implication that the individual contacting you is an attorney or that communication is coming from an attorney
  • The false implication that documents are legal process

Blanket FDCPA Prohibition on Deception

In addition to the specifically listed types of deception, the FDCPA explicitly prohibits “the use of any false representation or deceptive means to collect a debt or to obtain information concerning a consumer.”

If you think a debt collector may be lying to you or misleading you by implication, get legal advice. If a debt collector has threatened you with arrest, told you that you’re responsible for the debt of a deceased relative, claimed that your wages will be garnished immediately or made other implications described above, get help.

Demonstrating that a debt collector has violated the FDCPA protects your rights and those of other consumers, and you may even be entitled to monetary compensation. Call us at (562) 257-6576 or send us a message.