Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I have gotten myself into a financial bind. It’s partly from overspending but mostly from a job loss and divorce. I am hounded day and night by rude and overly aggressive debt collectors. I know some of them are just doing their job, but I don’t have any money or I would have already paid them. What can I do to stop the phone calls?”
Debt collectors overview
Unfortunately, it’s not that uncommon for debt collectors to use overly aggressive tactics to try to get debtors to pay their debts. It’s important to understand, however, that collectors do have the legal right to attempt to collect debts. It’s also important to note, however, that you have rights to avoid certain types of harassment under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA).
What is the FDCPA?
The FDCPA was created with the sole intention of protecting debtors and prohibiting debt collectors from using certain debt collection tactics. Whether it’s calling at inappropriate hours of the day, calling multiple times per hour, harassing family members and friends, or yelling and threatening debtors, we’ve all heard of abuses which have become routine in the debt collection industry. The good news is that protections for debtors have been created under the FDCPA. Protections offered under include the following:
- Protection from false statements.
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are barred from making false statements or lying about the consequences of not paying a debt. Collectors cannot threaten lawsuits, jail time, or wage garnishment unless the debt collector is actually going to take legal action.
Debt collectors also cannot falsely misrepresent that they work for a credit reporting agency, as a government representative, or as an attorney. The amount of debt owed must also be accurate and documentation must not look like it is from a governmental agency.
- Protection from harassment and abuse.
Debtors are also protected against abusive and harassing collector actions, including the threat of violence, repeated telephone calls, publicity for nonpayment, or the use of profanity and obscenity.
- Protection from calls at specific times of the day.
The FDCPA also established specific call times for debt collectors. No more midnight phone calls or phone calls at six in the morning. All collection calls must occur between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. (exceptions exist if authorized by debtor). Calls at work are also barred once the debtor has verbally asked the collector not to call them.
- Protection from unfair trade practices.
Debt collectors may not collect interest, fee, or other charges in addition to debt owed unless it is allowed under the contract or state law. They cannot threaten to take property if repossession is illegal, and they cannot deposit a post-dated check early.
What can you do to stop illegal creditor actions?
If you have been the victim of illegal creditor actions you have rights. Steps you can take include filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Protection Bureau or your state’s Attorney General’s office. You can file for bankruptcy and potentially have the debt discharged, or you can file a lawsuit against the creditor for the FDCPA violation.
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