Fitzgibbons Law Offices - Casa Grande and Maricopa Lawyers

520-426-3824

 
 
 

Ed van Vianen, Casa Grande Litigation and Bankruptcy Attorney

 

Fitzgibbons Law Offices
1115 E. Cottonwood Lane
Suite 150
Casa Grande, AZ 85122

Bankruptcy Law

November 2015

Debt Collection Harassment: Know Your Rights

Protection from collectors’ abusive, deceptive and unfair debt collection practices is provided in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Abusive debt collection practices can lead consumers to experience personal bankruptcy, troubled marriages, lost jobs and compromised privacy. To eliminate such practices and to encourage the proper collection of debts, laws are available to protect you against debt collection abuses.

This article looks at your rights in dealing with debt collectors who are willing to say anything – true or not – to get you to part with your money.

CONSUMER RIGHTS

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits collectors from engaging in a wide range of abusive and harassing conduct. This federal law generally applies to third-party debt collectors, such as collection agencies, debt buyers, and attorneys who regularly collect debts. It also applies to consumer debts, i.e., debts that were incurred primarily for personal, family or household purposes, such as car loans, mortgages, charge accounts and medical bills.

Under the law, debt collectors cannot harass, oppress or abuse you or anyone else they contact, and you are protected whether or not the money being collected is actually owed.

Prohibited Debt Collection Tactics

To protect you, the FDCPA imposes on debt collectors a number of prohibitions. Under these key provisions, a debt collector generally may not:

•  contact you at unreasonable times, such as before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM, unless you agree;

•  contact you at work if you tell the collector your employer disapproves;

•  communicate with third parties, such as friends, neighbors and children;

•  contact you after you write a letter telling the collector to stop, except to notify you if the collector or creditor plans to take a specific action;

•  harass you with repeated phone calls, obscene or profane language, or threats to harm you;

•  make any false representations of the amount or legal status of any debt;

•  make any false statement or claim that you will be arrested; or

•  threaten to have money deducted from your paycheck or to sue you, unless that course of action is legal and the collector or creditor intends to pursue it.

Collectors’ Obligations

The FDCPA also imposes affirmative obligations upon debt collectors. For example, the collector must disclose in the initial written communication with you (and in addition, if the initial communication is oral, in that oral communication) that the collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose. The collector must disclose in subsequent communications that the communication is from a debt collector.

Also, within five days after the initial communication, the collector generally must send you a written notice that tells you the name of the creditor, how much you owe, and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money.

You have 30 days to dispute the debt’s validity; if you timely dispute the debt’s validity in writing, the collector must stop collection efforts until the collector provides verification of the debt.

Your Remedies

If a debt collector violates your rights under the FDCPA, the law gives you private remedies. Generally, within one year of the violation, you can file suit in court against the collector for up to $1,000 in statutory damages, your attorney’s fees, and your actual damages.

Protecting Your Rights

In handling a past-due debt, it is to your advantage to try to deal with the problem before the creditor refers the debt to a collector. If you are unable to resolve the debt, it is important to know your rights.

Based on the FDCPA’s protections, here are a few things to consider if a collector comes calling:

•  Be sure the collector and the debt are legitimate.

•  If you recognize the debt, contact the collector to work out a repayment plan that makes sense for you.

•  If you are not sure the debt is yours, write the collector and ask for formal written verification of the debt, including proof that the debt is yours.

•  If the debt is not yours, write the collector to tell the collector the debt is not yours and that you do not want to be contacted about it again.

•  Keep all collection letters you receive and make copies of the letters you send, in case you need to dispute the issue later.

 

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