Oftentimes, consumers are intimidated by debt collectors into paying debts even when they are unable to realistically afford to make those payments. In these cases, uninformed consumers will often agree to pay on debts that have been inflated or are unenforceable because the statute of limitations has expired.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) collection agencies that are attempting to collect on more than one account from a consumer are required to apply any funds that are paid by the consumer as the consumer directs. The FDCPA provides:
If any consumer owes multiple debts and makes any single payment to any debt collector with respect to such debts, such debt collector may not apply such payment to any debt which is disputed by the consumer and, where applicable, shall apply such payment in accordance with the consumer’s directions.
This provision, under 15 U.S.C. Section 1692h, allows consumers to direct their funds to accounts they are able to make payments on and are not disputing, rather than the payments being applied to accounts that the debt collector prefers.
In order to get consumers to pay on all the accounts, whether the consumer is disputing the account or not, some debt collectors will use some common collections methods that violate the FDCPA. Such tactics include:
Debt collectors may make threats that include arrest, garnishment of wages or bank accounts, or to sue the consumer. These threats could be used to pressure consumers into making payments on debts that they are disputing. Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are prohibited from making threats they cannot, or have no intention of, carrying out.
Neighbors and family members may also be contacted by a debt collector in the attempt to collect on a debt. Provided that the debt collector only asks about the consumer’s whereabouts when contacting a third party, such communications does not violate the FDCPA. The debt collector may not discuss the consumers account or any other information about the consumer’s debt.
There are also times when scammers will pretend to be debt collectors, saying you owe a debt when you do not. Consumers may believe these scammers if they do legitimately owe debts on several accounts. If a consumer faces this situation, he or she should ask the caller to provide personal information to verify that it is correct. Legitimate debt collectors should also be able to provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, the name and address of the collection agency, the consumer’s name and address, and the amount owed on the account.
Harassing phone calls are another tactic used by debt collectors to pressure a consumer into paying on a debt. This includes calling at inconvenient times, calling outside the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., calling at the consumer’s place of work when the consumer is not allowed to take personal calls, or yelling or using obscene language.
If a consumer is represented by an attorney, once the debt collector has been informed of this, the collector must stop all communications with the consumer and communicate only with the attorney. The consumer should provide the debt collector with the name and contact information of their attorney. If the debt collector continues to call the consumer, the consumer should note the times of the calls and inform their attorney, as these calls now violate the FDCPA.
Our experienced attorneys here at Krohn and Moss Consumer Law Center have also provided many helpful resources regarding the TCPA and the FDCPA and how telephone debt collectors should act. We have been successfully representing those abused and taken advantage of by debt collectors for years, and have a long list of successful stories to share with you. We offer a FREE CASE REVIEW for you to assess whether we can assist you with your matter. Please do not hesitate to contact us toll free at 1-800-875-3666 or visit our website at http://www.krohnandmoss.com/.