The methods and means by which debt collectors attempt to retrieve unpaid money from debtors is almost limitless. The collection attempt may be from the original creditor, from hired collectors, or from third party collection agencies.
Often, the debt is from unpaid home loans, credit card balances owed, student loans, and the like. Debtors have rights, the first of which is to not be harassed. Federal laws, such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), and the individual laws of the fifty states in America place limits on the means and methods of collection attempts. The bounds of the FDCPA have limits, so state law can fill in gaps left by that Act.
Focusing on the FDCPA, federal law requires the following formalities from debt collectors:
- The debt collector’s communication must state that it is from a debt collector. The debtor must be told that any and all information received from the debtor will be used to collect on the debt.
- The name and address of the original creditor must be told to the debtor.
- The debt collector must openly reveal themselves every time they contact the debtor.
- Consumers must be told that they have a right to dispute the debt claimed against them. Such notice must be given to the debtor within five days from the date on which the collector first contacted the debtor. The debtor has thirty days from receipt of this notice to demand verification of the claimed debt; this should, at the very least, inform the debtor on the amount of the claimed debt and the name and address of the original creditor.
- Verification must be mailed to the debtor. If the debt collector fails at this, the collection agency is required to stop all attempts at collecting from the debtor.
- If the debtor fails to demand verification within thirty days, the debtor is relieved from the verification requirement.
- When the debtor disputes the debt received from the collection agency, such an agency must report that the debt has been disputed to the credit bureau. Even if the debtor failed to demand verification of the debt within the thirty day timeframe, the debtor can still verbally dispute the debt claimed against him or her.
- When the collection agency has legal rights to sue the debtor, the suit must only be started in the proper venue. This means that the court in which the suit is commenced must be located in the area where the contract between the debtor and creditor was signed or in the area where the debtor lives
The above represents what the debt collector must do. The following are things that the debt collector is precluded from doing:
- Threatening legal action that actually has not been considered or any legal action to which the debt collector is not entitled to take.
- Verbally abuse the debtor and or swear at the debtor.
- Harass, annoy, and or abuse the debtor intentionally by continuously telephoning the debtor.
- Contact the debtor when the collector knows that the debtor is represented by an attorney.
- Telling people about the consumer’s debt. Except, the collector can talk to the debtor’s spouse and or attorney about the debt.
- Report information to the credit bureau that is false.
- Among other things.
If you or anyone you know has been subjected to an abusive, deceptive, or unfair debt collection effort by any business or firm, contact the Krohn & Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center for a FREE evaluation to learn how you can protect your rights and get your attorneys’ fees paid.