In today’s world, it’s very easy to fall behind on debt. With the cost of living always increasing and millions out of work because of the pandemic, many people will unfortunately come into contact with debt collectors because of unforeseen circumstances such as delayed payment or even bankruptcy.
Fortunately, federal law protects debtors from predatory collection practices. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), originally passed in 1977, prohibits a wide range of unfair, deceptive, or abusive debt collection practices. It’s important for anyone dealing with debt collectors to know their rights under the law.
What does the FDCPA prohibit debt collectors from doing?
The FDCPA sets limits on how debt collectors can locate and contact debtors as well as what they can say when dealing with a debtor.
First, a debt collector trying to locate a debtor by contacting third parties cannot reveal to the third parties that they are a debt collector or that the person owes money. This is to make sure debt collectors can’t embarrass debtors by publicizing the debt. Additionally, debt collectors cannot discuss a debt with anyone except the debtor, the debtor’s spouse, or the debtor’s attorney. If the debt collector knows the debtor has an attorney, they can only contact the attorney.
Debt collectors may only contact debtors by phone, text message, email, or mail. Within five days of the first contact with a debtor, the debt collector must provide a written notice of the amount due, the name of the creditor, and how the debtor can dispute the debt. Debt collectors are not allowed to call before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm.
The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from threatening, harassing, or lying to debtors. Collectors cannot use profane language, threaten violence or reputational harm, or threaten to repossess property unless they actually have a right to the specific piece of property. They may not repeatedly call with the intent to harass a debtor. Collectors must also be honest; they cannot misrepresent the amount of money owed, charge additional interest or fees outside the original credit agreement, or apply payments for one debt to another debt.
What rights does the FDCPA give debtors?
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are required to honor certain requests from debtors. If a debtor requests verification of a debt within 30 days of receiving a notice, the collector must send proof of the debt, like the original bill owed. Until the debt collector has provided this verification, they may not continue to try to collect.
Debtors also have the right to request that a debt collector stop contacting him or her. The debtor must send this request in writing, and once the collector has received it, they can only contact the debtor to confirm receipt of the request or to notify the debtor of a specific action like a lawsuit to collect on the debt.
What happens if a debt collector violates the FDCPA?
The Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the states all enforce the FDCPA and can penalize debt collectors who violate the law. Additionally, the FDCPA allows debtors whose rights have been violated to sue debt collectors. In these lawsuits, the debtor can receive $1,000 plus reimbursement for legal fees as well as any other damages they have suffered from the illegal debt collection attempts.
When dealing with debt collectors, it’s a good idea for debtors to ask for the name of the collector and the collection agency. This way, if the collector breaks the law, it will be easier to bring a lawsuit or ask the government to investigate.
It’s important to note that even if a debt collector violates FDCPA, any debt owed will still remain due. Although the FDCPA protects debtors from unfair debt collection practices, it does not cancel debts even if unfair practices are used.
What should I do if I’ve been the target of illegal debt collection practices?
If you or a loved one has been targeted by illegal debt collection practices, contact Rosenblum Law for a free consultation today. Our attorneys can advise you on how to protect your rights as well as help you deal with your debts. Call 888-815-3649 or email us.