Truth, Fairness, Dignity and Respect: That's The Law
Debt collectors must treat you with truth, fairness, dignity, and respect. Period. Debt collectors are regulated by numerous state and federal laws in their debt collection activities. That's where our firm can help. Most people know that debt collectors cannot abuse them on the phone or in writing--what many people don't know is that they have a lot of other legal rights, too. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") lays down the federal law for how debt collectors have to behave when they are collecting from you. This article will briefly outline some of the important consumer rights afforded to you under the FDCPA. Some states also have their own laws which are similar to the FDCPA.
For example, a debt collector cannot call you at work if they know that it is inconvenient for you or that your employer prohibits it. Debt collectors cannot tell others about your debts, like your next door neighbor or your co-worker. Debt collectors also must abide by the debt collection laws of the states in which they operate, such as complying with licensing requirements. These are just a few of the numerous protections you have as a consumer. If a debt collector violates your rights, our firm can help.
As a consumer, you are afforded many consumer protections against debt collectors, both under state and federal law. Our firm primarily works with consumers whose rights have been violated under the FDCPA and other consumer protection statutes.
We firmly believe that everyone should pay their just and owing debts. Our society cannot function when people disregard their financial responsibilities. But our country was founded on historic legal principles that rejected debtor's prisons and similar inhumane treatment for those who have fallen on hard times. Likewise, we think that no debt collector ought to violate your rights to get payment. It's that simple. Your legal right to fair, legal, debt collection activity cannot take a back seat to any debt collector's violations of state and federal law.
Who is Covered: Some Definitions
Consumer: Any person who owes or is alleged to owe a consumer debt.
Debt Collectors: According to the FDCPA, a debt collector is any person, other than the creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to others and includes attorneys who regularly collect debts.
Covered Debts: Any debt that is primarily for personal, family, or household purposes are covered under the FDCPA. Business and commercial debts are not covered. Alimony, child support, criminal fines, and tort claims are generally not considered debts within the meaning of the FDCPA.
How a Debt Collector Can Communicate With You
Communications Generally: A debt collector may communicate with you by mail, in person, by telephone or telegram. A debt collector cannot contact you at times or in places that they know are inconvenient to you, such as at work if your employer does not permit it or during daytime sleep hours if you work nights. A debt collector cannot contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Stopping Communications: If you send a written request to a debt collector demanding that they stop contacting you, the debt collector must stop contact immediately, but they may send one last communication to you advising you that they intend to take a specific action against you including filing a lawsuit.
Attorney Representation: If you are represented by an attorney concerning a consumer debt (e.g., a consumer rights attorney such as our office, a bankruptcy attorney, or a family attorney), the debt collector cannot communicate directly with you except through your lawyer.
Contacting Others: A debt collector cannot contact any third party about your debt. This means that they cannot call you sister-in-law, your grandson, or your neighbor about the debt. Debt collectors are not allowed to tell anyone but you and your attorney that you owe anyone else money.
Locating You: A debt collector has a right to contact other people once, and only once, in an effort to locate you. Debt collectors are not permitted to ask neighbors to bring you phone messages, ask you to come across the street for a phone call, or tell other people that they are attempting to collect a debt from you.
What a Debt Collector is Prohibited From Doing to You
Collection Fees Prohibited: A debt collector may not charge you an interest, fees, or collection charges, except those amounts that were authorized by the agreement with the creditor to whom the debt is owed.
Harassment Prohibited: A debt collector may not use any language, communication or conduct to harass, oppress, or abuse any person. They cannot:
- Use threats of violence or harm to the person, property, or reputation.
- Advertise your debt or publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts, except to credit bureaus.
- Use obscene or profane language.
- Repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone or ring the telephone constantly
- Call people without identifying themselves.
False Statements Prohibited. A debt collector may not use any false statements when trying to collect a debt. This includes:
- Falsely implying that they are an attorney or government representative.
- Falsely implying that you have committed a crime by not paying a debt.
- Falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit bureau.
- Misrepresent the character, amount, or legal status of the debt.
- Indicate that papers being sent are legal papers when they are not.
- Indicate that papers being sent are not legal papers when they are.
Threats Prohibited. Debt collectors may not use threats when trying to collect a debt. This includes threats like the following:
- You will be arrested if you do not pay your debt.
- They will seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages, unless the collection agency or the creditor intends to do so and they have the right to do so.
- Take any actions against you that are illegal.
- Violate any law in an effort to collect a debt.
Deception Prohibited. A debt collector may not use deception when trying to collect a debt. Specifically, the law says that they cannot:
- Send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency when it is not.
- Give false credit information about you to anyone.
- Use a fake or false name, unless that name is allowed by state law and properly registered with the state, if required.
Unfairness Prohibited. A debt collector may not treat you unfairly in attempting to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
- Collect any amount greater than your debt, unless allowed by law.
- Deposit a post-dated check more than 5 days before the date on the check, without giving you notice of when they intend to deposit it.
- Solicit a post-dated in order to threaten criminal prosecution or threaten to cash the check early.
- Make you accept collect calls or pay for telegrams.
- Take or threaten to take your property unless this can be done legally, including wrongfully repossessing your vehicle.
- Contact you by postcard.
Payments on Multiple Debts. A debt collector must apply your payments on multiple debts in the order you direct. A debt collector is prohibited from applying any payments you send in to debts that you believe you do not owe.
Advantages of Suing Debt Collectors
The deck is stacked against consumers with sophisticated debt collection tactics. As a consumer, you should not hesitate to shield yourself from these sharp practices and exercise your rights under the FDCPA. Our law firm has the experience, resources and ability to zealously represent you in your FDCPA action against any debt collector. We file federal civil lawsuits against debt collectors who violate any state or federal law. The FDCPA prohibits any collection efforts which violate any law. That means that amongst other things, a collector must tell the truth, be respectful to you, and cease communicating with you when you have a lawyer.
If you have been contacted by a debt collector and feel that you have been subject to unlawful debt collection tactics, it is imperative that you contact us or another consumer attorney as soon as possible. Your claim(s), if any, against these debt collectors could expire as quickly as one year. If you are facing an unlawful debt collection, you may send an email to our intake department here or you may contact us by phone.