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Debt collection harassment: Know your rights

Are you getting harassing phone calls from debt collectors? Do you think they are misrepresenting the amount due or are they not providing verification of the debt owed after you ask for it? It is important to know your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act so you can protect yourself from unfair debt collection practices.


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What is the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) enacted in 1978, is one of the most important and farthest reaching statutes that govern debt collection agencies. Generally, this act applies only to third-party debt collectors, though in some states, it also applies to original creditors as well. The FDCPA was set up largely to protect debtors and consumers from dishonest debt collectors. Debt collectors cannot harass debtors, lie to them, misrepresent themselves or the debt.

Here is a guide to help you understand what a debt collector legally must do and what they can’t do when trying to collect on a debt.

What a debt collection agency must do:

  • Identify themselves: Agencies must tell you that they are a debt collector and that any information they obtain may be used to help them collect on the debt. In addition, the debt collector must tell you that you have the right to dispute the claim.
  • Supply the name and address of original creditor: The debt collector must inform you where the debt originated and provide contact information for that creditor.
  • Provide verification of the debt: If you demand proof of the debt (generally a receipt or report), the debt collector must provide this verification before continuing attempts to retrieve funds. You must make this request within a month of the original contact from the collection agency.

What a debt collection agency can’t do:

  • Communicate in a harassing manner. There are many different prohibitions on how, when, and how often a debt collector can communicate with consumers. A debt collector cannot:
    • Call the debtor before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
    • Contact you in a harassing or abusive manner.
    • Call you at your place of employment (after you have told them not to).
    • Contact you, if you have already retained an attorney.
    • They can not use abusive, vulgar or profane language.
    • Misrepresent the debt amount.
    • Misrepresent themselves as a lawyer or law enforcement officer.
    • Contact a third party, outside of your spouse or attorney.
    • Threaten legal action or arrest that is not “actually contemplated.”
  • Report false information. Debt collectors are forbidden from providing false information to credit reporting agencies or other businesses. They also cannot threaten to do so.
  • Broadcast your name. A debt collection agency is also not allowed to publish your name, address, or other personal information on any “bad debt” lists.
  • Contact you after a validation request or refusal to pay. A debt collector is forbidden from calling, writing, or otherwise contacting you if you have disputed or refused to pay the debt. Although legal action can be taken, further contact after refusal is considered harassment. As stated before, if you request validation of the debt, the agency must provide proof before further contact is made.

If the FDCPA is violated, what should I do?
If the act is violated, the debt collector could be held responsible for paying your damages and attorney fees.

If you feel a debt collector has violated the FDCPA, you should consider speaking with an attorney about your situation. Ask a Lawyer today for a quick response.

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