26 May How to Deal With Debt Collectors: Stop the Harassment!
Debt collectors can make your life miserable. Repeated, angry phone calls at home. Inappropriate calls at work. Nasty letters. It’s enough to make you want to disconnect your phone and tell the mailman you’ve gone on an extended trip.
You don’t have to. There are federal and state laws that protect you from debt collection tactics, and can stop the calls and letters.
A Federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the biggest help. First enacted in 1977, this law provides significant protection to people who are being harassed by collection agents.
Among other provisions, the FDCPA prohibits improper collection activity. This includes:
- Contacting you by telephone earlier than 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m., your time;
- Contacting you in any way (other than a lawsuit) after you send written notice that you don’t want them to contact you further (see my discussion of this at How to Deal With Debt Collectors: Stop the Calls!);
- Contacting you at your employment after you tell them that this is not acceptable (see my discussion of this at How to Deal With Debt Collectors: Stop the Calls!);
- Misrepresenting the debt or using deception to collect the debt;
- Threatening you with arrest or legal action that they don’t intend to do or they cannot do (see my discussion of attempts to collect debts barred by the statute of limitations at How to Deal With Debt Collectors: The Statute of Limitations);
- Using abusive or profane language to try to collect the debt;
- Telling anyone other than you, your spouse or your attorney that they are trying to collect a debt;
- Filing lawsuits in places other than where the you live or signed the contract.
If a collection agent does any of these things, you should contact a consumer protection lawyer immediately. The FDCPA provides that a collection agent who violates the law is liable for statutory damages of up to $1,000 per incident, actual damages (including damages for your embarrassment and distress at what they do) and your attorney’s fees.
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