Debt Collection Laws and Your Rights
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Your Legal Weapon To Fight Collection Agency Harassment
Some of the worst stress in the world is instigated by debt collectors. Unfortunately, when you have credit card bills that go unpaid you eventually have debt collection agencies calling and/or writing you regarding your outstanding financial obligations. And it’s not all polite banter.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to shutting down debt collection harassment.
Do debt collectors really harass people?
You bet they do. And you and the federal government can sue them for it.
Here’s how they try to get away with it:
When you’re unemployed and your credit card payments become delinquent because you’ve used your meager unemployment benefits to cover the essential stuff (utility bills, food on the table, gas for the car, rent or mortgage), you WILL be contacted by a debt collection agency. If you’ve been financially self-sustaining until now—had a job, paid your bills-- it’s common to feel like you’ve been thrown under the bus. Suddenly you’re not in control and that’s a tough pill to swallow. Sitting by and watching your debt accumulate is extremely disempowering, it’s embarrassing for many people, it’s scary, blood pressure rises, people take anti-depression medication-- and debt problems can be a very private matter. So the debt collectors come and some just don’t go away with a simple “Please” and “Thank you.”
Debt collectors may try to capitalize on your psychological situation.
Others use fear and scare tactics like these:
- threats of law suits, even imprisonment
- use of obscene and intimidating language
- harassment of your friends and family
- contacting your employer and business colleagues
- threats of wage garnishment
Who are “The Debt Collectors”?
In your mind you might have some image of a Repo Man, drawn from movies and cartoons, but in reality, what is the “collections” business anyway?
Collections agencies work usually in one of two ways: they work for creditors in collecting on overdue debts and earn fees upon collection; or they buy uncollected accounts from creditors. These agencies are called third party collections.
And not all debt collectors are fiends. The official trade organization of the professional debt collections business, ACA International, promotes a Best Practices and Code of Conduct for association members.
Fair Debt Collections Practices Act In a Nutshell
Here are the basics of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, which was enacted by the Federal Trade Commission in response to increasingly unfair business practices:
Debt collectors cannot:
- Contact you after 8 p.m. or before 9 a.m.
- Threaten you with arrest, fines, wage garnishment, injury or death, or anything else
- Contact you at work
- Contact family, friends, colleagues or acquaintances for any other reason than to verify your current contact information.
- Contact you or anyone else using obscene and vulgar language
- Contact or communicate knowingly with a child regarding your debt
- Disclose your debt situation to anyone other than you
- Continue to contact you if you have hired a lawyer to handle the situation
You have a right to:
- Request in writing the name of the original creditor, must be within 30 days of the first notice
- Hire a lawyer to deal with your debt situation and assume all communication
- Dispute in writing any erroneous debt
- Request in writing a cease and desist of all communications to yourself and/or others.