Debt Collection Methods & The FDCPA – Part One: Letters

24 Mar Debt Collection Methods & The FDCPA – Part One: Letters

There are generally three debt collection methods that debt collectors use:  letters, telephone calls, and credit reporting.  These methods fall under the category of communications as defined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  Each method is discussed in this series with a brief commentary regarding what is and is not permissible (and in some instances what is required) under the FDCPA.  Remember that harassment or abuse, false or misleading representations, and/or unfair or unconscionable means to collect a debt are NEVER permitted.  This post will discuss letters.

The Initial Communication.  Communication is defined by the FDCPA as the “conveying of information regarding a debt directly or indirectly to any person through any medium.”  Section 1692a(2).  The FDCPA requires a debt collector to send, within five (5) days of the initial communication with the debtor, a written notice with the following information: 

  1. amount of the debt;
  2. name of the creditor;
  3. a statement that the debt will be assumed valid by the collector unless the consumer notifies the debt collector within thirty (30) days after receipt of the notice;
  4. a statement that unless the consumer notifies the collector, in writing, within thirty (30) days, that the debt is disputed that the debt collection will obtain verification of the debt and provide it to the consumer; and
  5. a statement that, upon the consumer’s written request within the thirty (30) day period, the debt collection will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor.  Section 1692g(a)(1-5).

Disputed Debts/Validation of Debts.  If a consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within thirty (30) days of the notice that the debt is disputed or the consumer requests the name and address of the original creditor, the debt collector must stop collecting on the debt until the debt collector obtains and provides verification of the debt or the name and address of the original creditor and mails a copy of the verification to the consumer.  Section 1692g.

Collection Letters.   These may not be used to harass, oppress, or abuse you or contain false or misleading information.  Written communications, especially the initial written communication to you, should contain the statement that “this is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.”  All written communications must state that the communication is from a debt collector.  This does not apply to formal pleadings (i.e. documents filed within a lawsuit.)  Section 1692e(11).

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