When the debt collectors come knocking on your door or calling your work phone, there are important things to know about your rights.
In essence, your rights are preserved and protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which provides guidelines on debt collector actions.
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about the FDCPA. So that you can protect your rights when abusive and offensive debt collectors try to cash out on your ignorance.
But fear not, you will be far from ignorant by reading this article. So whenever you’re ready to ensure your rights are secured, keep reading.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: What Is It
The FDCPA, also known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law, designed and passed in 1978, which provides regulatory guidelines on debt collector actions that occur when they attempt to get consumers to acquire debt payments.
It prohibits deceptive, unfair, and abusive practices, as well as places limits on how and when third-party collectors can reach the people who owe money. The act covers the collection of mortgage, medical and credit card debt, but also personal, household and family purpose debts. It also includes auto and student loans.
The act does not cover agricultural or business debts.
With Whom, When & Where Is Contact Allowed?
Collectors cannot context you at unusual places or times that are assumed to be inconvenient. They are restricted from contact before 8 in the morning, and after 9 in the evening, unless they have permission from courts or yourself.
If collectors have reason to know not to contact you or are notified of no contact at your employment location, they will be restricted from doing so.
If debt collectors are aware of your attorney retention for debt handling, they are only allowed to communicate through them, as long as they can easily acquire their contact info and they respond. They can also provide the collector with contact permissions.
Debt collectors cannot harass third-party entities in the focus of settling a debt. The only parties that can receive contact are the consumers, the creditor, the consumer attorney, the collector’s attorney, and consumer-reporting agencies.
As a consumer, you can choose to not pay your debt or ask the collector to stop reaching out to you. If you choose this option, you must respond in writing with your request to prevent them from contacting you.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the collector must stop reaching out to you, with some exceptions. First, debt collectors must tell you they have the written letter and they will not contact you.
They can also notify you if they will take another measure within lawful bounds to recover the debt, such as filing a lawsuit. Keep in mind stopping a collector from contacting you will not prevent them from reporting your debt or suing you.
Practices Of Mandatory Nature
All debt collectors that contact you for debts must share specific debt information. If they don’t provide this information when they contact you for the first time, they must submit this information in written form within 5 days of contact.
They must provide you with:
- The creditor name
- The amount owed
- The fact that you can request the address and name of the original credit
- The fact that you can dispute the debt in written form within a month of the initial contact
If you make a written request in the single month timeframe, the debt collector must not contact you again until you have provided debt verification. This will give you a break from annoying calls, as well as give you enough time to cross-compare creditor records and consult with a lawyer for guidance.
Practices Of Prohibited Nature
However, there are some things that debt collectors cannot do at all. Debt collectors cannot intimate you with offensive and obscene language, they cannot threaten you with physical violence or defamation. They also cannot harass or repeatedly call you without identifying your character.
Debt collectors can not falsely represent themselves, lie to coerce payments, misrepresent amounts due, or provide false documentation to the consumer. Debt collectors may not also collect unauthorized money, a threat to deposit postdated checks, solicited postdate checks, threaten repossessions within legal means.
These are only some of the things that are covered under the act. If you’re looking for more specific federal protections for consumers, feel free to review the full act or seek out legal assistance if the jargon is not comprehensible.
How to Prevent Debt Collector Letters & Calls
If you get a letter or call from a debt collector, don’t engage with them. This means that you should not provide them with financial or personal information, no matter how politely or forcefully they ask.
This is how you should handle these instances of debt collector contact.
You must keep contact short. However, you still need to be able to gather important information. Tell the collector that you want proof of the debt in writing.
Tell them that you don’t believe this debt to be true. By law, the collector must tell you:
- The name of the creditor
- The amount owed
- That you can dispute
- That you can ask for the creditor’s address and name
The collector is required to send this information within five days of contact. It might be tempting to negotiate with a collector over the phone, it’s advised against. Never fall for the moral obligation of paying your debt.
Debt collectors will often add excessive fees on top of the owed amount. Because it simply becomes throwing good money after the bad.
Gather Information & Send Letter
Ensure that you ask the caller about their mailing address and company name. If you receive a proof letter, save the address for return. Send the collector a letter with certified mail telling them to not contact you, and keep a copy of this letter for yourself.
This letter will ensure FDCPA rules are enforced that require the collector to leave you be.
Expert Witness to Aid Your Case
Now that you know what the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is, you are that much closer to ensuring that your rights are protected from unfair practices. If you’re not a consumer but a debt attorney defending your client, you might find great use in expert witnesses.
If you’re interested in finding an appropriate expert witness to support your case, get in touch with us and we will happily accommodate your needs.