The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the 2010 federal law that restricts the behavior of third-party debt collectors. The law outlines a number of specific debt collection means and methods that it deems abusive, misleading, or unfair. When a third-party debt collector violates the FDCPA, the consumer has one year to take legal action against them. If proven in court, the consumer can claim up to $1000 in damages plus legal fees.
An important clarifier is that the FDCPA applies to third-party debt collectors, like a collection agency or law firm specializing in collections. It does NOT apply to the original issuer of the loan. For example, if you bought something from XYZ company and XYZ company is calling you about the money you owe they are not specifically bound by the FDCPA. That doesn’t mean the original creditor can do whatever they want; their actions are still bound by a number of state and federal laws that restrict harassing-type behaviors, phone calls, and illegal business practices.
The FDCPA states a consumer can pursue a lawsuit against a third-party debt collector for the following violations:
- use of threatening, abusive, or profane language
- continue contacting you after asking them to cease-and-desist
- continue contacting you instead of your attorney representative
- contact you at work without permission
- contact you late at night (after 9pm or before 8am) without permission
- make the phone ring in attempt to annoy or harass
- lie about who they are
- lie about legal actions, repossessions, tax penalties, or wage garnishments
- lie about or inflate the amount you owe
- publish or print your private information where it can be viewed by others
- misrepresent your debt to the credit reporting bureau
- contact you after you have filed for bankruptcy
Sending a cease-and-desist letter may be a logical first course of action, but it won’t change anything about the debt. If the debt is legitimate, you probably won’t be able to ignore it for very long before real world consequences arrive, like dropping your credit score, getting sued, and possibly even court-mandated wage garnishments. If the debt is fabricated or fraudulent, the ensuing he-said-she-said scenario might require an attorney to protect you against false claims.
Acquiring debt and paying it down is part of the ebb and flow of modern life. Falling behind or being overextended is less than ideal, but it doesn’t give debt collectors a free pass for abusing and harassing you. There are laws in place to protect consumers from unethical practices by debt collectors who violate individual rights.
If you believe a debt collector is in violation of the FDCPA, consider getting expert legal advice before the situation worsens. Obtaining an attorney will stop the debt-collector’s contact with you immediately. All future communications will be directed through the lawyer, who will help you manage the situation effectively.
Contact our staff at the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lohman. We will help you stop the harassment, evaluate all options, and take the appropriate action.