The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to regulate and govern debt collection practices. The FDCPA, together with state debt collection statutes, protect consumers from illegal and unethical debt collection practices.
The FDCPA lays down the rights of consumers for the fair collection of debts. All types of personal, household and family debts are covered in the FDCPA. These include auto loans, medical expenses and charge cards. However, the FDCPA does not prohibit the collection of any legitimate debt, provided that collectors abide by the law.
When a consumer fails to make debt repayment on time, he may be contacted by a creditor or a collector engaged by the original creditor, otherwise known as a debt collector. A third party agency or a debt collector who has bought the debt from the original creditor can also approach the consumer for payment.
In a recent case of debt collection harassment from Elyria, Ohio, a debtor was threatened with a lawsuit and imprisonment. Debt collectors went to the extent of claiming that the debtor was soon to be arrested at her home by police. The debtor was deeply shaken by this incident and did not contact anyone due to her fear of the debt collector's threats. This is one example of debt collection methods taking ugly turns, with collectors resorting to the worst kind of techniques.
In the above situation the harassed consumer had several options. She could have sent the collector a letter (cease and desist) demanding that he cease all contact immediately. Or, she could have contacted an FDCPA attorney immediately, and had her attorney stop the calls and take legal action against the collector for harassment and violations of the FDCPA.
Such horrific situations are prohibited by the FDCPA. According to the Act, a collector cannot threaten legal action that it cannot take or does not intend to take. A collector can contact you for debt on phone, by email or fax, by mail or telegram, but can call only between 8 am and 9 pm, and cannot call repeatedly to harass you. He also cannot pose as an attorney or a police officer in order to extract money from you.
Knowledge of your rights in the FDCPA gives you the upper hand over debt collectors who violate the FDCPA. Whatever the status of you debt, if you are harassed by debt collectors, you should engage an attorney who is well versed in the FDCPA. Debt collectors should be informed that you have retained an attorney, after which they are no longer permitted to contact you, and cannot contact a third party for any information about you.