Are debt collectors harassing you? Have debt collectors used abusive or deceptive tactics to force your or trick you to give information regarding your debt? The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects you from debt collection harassment.
There are some very important debt collection rules set forth by the FDCPA which you should be aware of because collecting debts through abusive and overly-aggressive means is prohibited by law.
This includes the following tactics:
- Calling before 8 AM or after 9 PM;
- Using abusive or offensive language;
- Using unwarranted threats to arrest or sue the consumer;
- Telling anyone else about your debt when they call, including family, friends, or a co-worker;
- Claiming you committed a crime;
- Continuing to contact you after written requests to stop;
- Failing to identify their name and business;
- Mischaracterizing the debt, including the interest, size, and penalties;
- Calling at work despite requests not to do so; and
- Claiming to be an attorney when the debt collector is not one.
Tips for gathering and preserving evidence to support your claim against an abusive debt collector include the following:
- Keeping a log of all communications by the debt collectors, including the date, time, caller, and content of the telephone call;
- Maintain a file of all written communications—including e-mails—from debt collectors;
- Preserve all other evidence which could help you establish the facts of your case, including payments, invoices, envelopes, and contracts; and
- Ideally record any telephone conversations with a debt collector.
FDCPA Guidelines Leaving Messages
The FDCPA prohibits a debt collector from leaving messages in most circumstances. For instance, if the message machine is shared by other individuals or it can be heard by other individuals, than a debt collector who leaves a message on that machine will likely have violated the FDCPA. This is most likely to be a violation when the message is left at your place of employment or in a dorm or shared living situation. Even if the message machine is private, the debt collector must still be careful what he or she says.
The FDCPA requires debt collectors to announce who they are (name, business, and contact telephone number, state that the communication is an attempt to collect a debt, and that the information obtained will be used to collect that debt. As a general rule of thumb, the more specific details that the debt collector leaves on your machine (i.e., the amount of the debt, where it came from, interest, penalties, etc.), the more likely the debt collector’s message will violate the FDCPA.
FDCPA Rules On Calling or Contacting You
The FDCPA heavily regulates what a debt collector can and cannot do over the telephone. This includes prohibiting debt collectors from contacting consumers at inconvenient or unusual places, which includes work, at school, hospitals or medical providers, or related places. Debt collectors are also prohibited from calling before 8 AM and after 9 PM, and are not allowed to continue to call you after you have provided them a written request to stop calling. The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from sending e-mails, faxes, text messages, pages, or other similar messages.
How To File Suit For FDCPA Violations
If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, you have legal remedies available to you. You may bring a lawsuit against the debt collector in court and prove that the debt collector violated a provision of the FDCPA. This requires the experience of a skilled debt collector harassment attorney to protect your rights. Bringing and action in court can be time consuming and even lengthy, but it is paramount to protecting your rights. It can even result in the debt being invalidated and monetary damages to you for debt collector harassment due to violations of the FDCPA.
You may also elect to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) first. The FTC will conduct an investigation on your behalf and make a finding whether or not the debt collector violated the FDCPA. If there is a violation found, you can use that violation to help leverage a settlement without a lawsuit. This can be a more expeditious relief than if you filed a lawsuit initially. However, if settlement fails, you can still use that FTC’s finding of a violation against the debt collector in court. This will give you a significant advantage, and it is cost-effective because the FTC will conduct the investigation, gather information, and apply it to the law for you and your attorney.