Falling into debt is unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean you no longer have rights. Once you owe a debt, collectors become involved after they buy the debt from the company you owe. Many debt collectors are working on commission, and it’s their job to speak with you about your past-due bills to find out if, and when, you’ll be able to make payments. Because of the commission payment structure, collectors working with a debt collection agency may go too far to make borrowers pay because they can’t be compensated until the borrower makes a payment.
In light of this, you should never be mistreated by debt collectors. Not only is poor treatment unethical, it is illegal. In fact, abusive behavior by debt collectors has been documented so frequently that it has led to the passing of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
What Is The FDCPA?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was meant to protect borrowers by setting the rules and guidelines that debt collectors must follow. The FDCPA further explains to consumers what collectors have the right to say and do when contacting anyone regarding a debt. The law came into place in 1977 under the enforcement of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and any debt collector that violates this law can, and should, be sued.
Rights and Restrictions
The FDCPA gives you the right to ask for proof that the debt is yours. Validating the debt you owe is important. Sometimes, mistakes happen when handling accounts. Claiming responsibility for a debt that doesn’t belong to you is an unnecessary expense that can further harm your credit.
When a collector calls anyone (besides your spouse) and discusses your debt, they have violated your privacy by sharing your personal information without your consent. Collection agencies also cannot call you at unreasonable hours, which would be before 8 AM and after 9 PM. At these hours, many people are asleep or enjoying personal time, and debt collectors should not be intruding.
When debt collectors begin calling you repeatedly and contacting other people you know, it creates a stressful and embarrassing situation. If debt collectors are overwhelming you, know that you’re not alone. Relying solely on the FDCPA isn’t the only way you can protect yourself. Many lawyers now specialize in defending borrowers against debt collectors who behave inappropriately. A legal representative can work for you by addressing debt collectors about their violations and moving forward with a lawsuit.
Agents that work to collect debts for business loans and other business-related expenses are not required to adhere to FDCPA guidelines. Personal bills that are covered by the FDCPA are:
- Automobile loans
- Medical bills
- Credit cards
You Have The Right To Tell Debt Collectors To Stop Contacting You
Debt collectors have the right to contact you by telephone, letters, and emails, but they must always do so respectfully while being clear about the debt you owe to the original creditor. If you don’t want bill collectors to continue contacting you, you have the option to orally request that they cease all communication. However, the most effective method is to send a letter requesting that you should no longer wish to be contacted. Before sending the letter, make a copy and send it as certified mail to confirm that the collection agency received the letter.
Sometimes, the company will immediately stop contacting you. In other cases, they may contact you to confirm that they agree to your request or inform you of legal action that will be taken against you.
Besides your spouse, the only person a debt collector can call about your debts is your attorney. When speaking with your spouse or attorney, there are still limitations as to what the debt collector can say. Collectors can only request verification of your address, place of employment, and phone number when speaking with third parties.
Many people don’t know that a debt collector is required to send written the proof of a debt within five days of initially contacting you. If you’re sure you don’t owe the money, you can reply to the debt collection company with a written statement requiring debt validation within 30 days of being contacted.
There are many more things a debt collector can do that violates the FDCPA. Some of the actions debt collectors are not allowed to do in attempts to collect payment include:
- Calling you more than once weekly
- Contacting you at work more than one time
- Telling you lies or providing you with false information to trick you into paying a debt
- Leaving casual voicemails; collectors must state they are calling to collect a debt and provide their name and the company they work for
- Threatening you with jail
- If a lawsuit is not in progress, a debt collector cannot state that you will be sued or your wages will be garnished. This is considered a threat and is meant to scare you into paying
- Even if you acknowledge that you owe the debt, a debt collector cannot request that you pay additional fees illegally
- If you inform a debt collector that you have an attorney, they are no longer allowed to call anyone else looking for you
- A debt collector cannot automatically take your property, vehicle, or other material possessions without a judgment against you; stating this is also a threat
- Rude behavior or yelling is also a violation of the FDCPA
- If a debt collector tells you hurtful things (such as accusing you of purposely not paying your bills and bringing your character into question), this should be reported immediately
Ethics Are The Foundation Of The FDCPA
Debt is stressful enough without mistreatment from debt collectors. Enforcing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is about much more than protecting your legal rights. For borrowers, the regulations set by the FDCPA keeps them from being abused by collection agencies or manipulated into making payments. Above all else, the FDCPA reminds debt collectors that they must be ethical and respectful in their practices regardless of the borrower’s circumstances.
Author: Princella Talley