What are My Legal Rights Concerning Debt Collectors?
Falling behind on your credit card bills or car payment is stressful. Life is expensive and for many of us, just getting by from paycheck to paycheck is the only option. So when unexpected expenses arise and you find yourself unable to pay some of your bills, the harassing phone calls from debt collectors can make you feel like there is no way out.
Is there anything you can do to stop the phone calls and threatening letters that seem to be increasing every day? There are a few basic protections that can ease up the nature and frequency of the collection agency’s contacts with you.
The ‘Fair Debt Collection Practices Act’ was enacted by Congress in 1978 to do just that. There are a few stipulations that must be met in order to be protected by this act, one is you are required to be a consumer, and the debt must be defined as consumer debt.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) states it is illegal for collection agencies or attorneys to participate in the following:
- Contact you at your place of employment after the collector has been advised not to do so
- Call you at unreasonable hours or very late at night. No collection agency should be contacting you after 9 p.m. or before 8 a.m.
- Make repeated calls to you
- Purposely use deceptive means or conduct
- Not disclosing the identity of the debt collector when they call
- Stating or implying that the debt collector is connected or affiliated with a government agency
- Using insulting, vulgar, or derogatory comments
- Threaten to arrest you
- Threaten to lose custody of your children
- Threaten to lose welfare benefits
- Publish your name or talking to third parties about your debt
- Use any language, communication or symbols on postcards or envelopes that show the sender is a collection agency
- Threaten to repossess your property without having the legal right or intention to do so
- Contact you directly when you are represented by an attorney
If you feel your rights have been violated and wish to consult with an attorney to discuss how to proceed, contact a debt collection attorney, like the lawyers at Johnston & Martineau PLLP. for more information about your case.
There are specific legal requirements that a debt collector must follow concerning consumer debt. A collector has to advise you in writing within five days after the first communication of the total amount of your debt and the creditor’s name.
After that, you have 30 days to dispute the debt’s validity in writing, or the collection agency assumes the debt is valid. If you do dispute the debt within the 30 day period, it is up to the collector to verify the debt and mail the findings to you. The collection agency must also give you the contact information of the original creditor. If the collection agency fails to provide you with this information in a timely manner, they can be in violation of the FDCPA act.
If collection agencies have made your life miserable by their constant hounding and harassment, remember you do have rights that the collectors need to adhere to.