A federal law known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act limits what debt collectors can and cannot do to harass you about debts. The law applies only to “debt collectors.” This means that the person calling you is collecting the debt that you currently owe to someone else. If the original owner of the debt calls you directly to collect their debt, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not apply to them. However, if the original owner hired a debt collection agency to collect the debt, the law does apply to the debt collection agency.
Debt Collector Contacts
A debt collector may contact you over the telephone, by mail, in person, or by fax. The debt collector cannot call you at unreasonable times or places. Typically, this means that they should not call you before 8:00 a.m. in the morning or after 9:00 p.m. at night unless you agree to let them call you at those hours. A debt collector may call you at work unless you let them know that their employer disapproves of this. If you do get contacted at work, immediately notify the debt collector if your employer prohibits this.
Stopping contacts from debt collectors
You can request that the collector stop contacting you. It is recommended that you do this by writing a letter to the debt collection agency in addition to telling them over the telephone. Make sure you keep a copy of this letter for your own records. When the debt collection agency receives the letter, they should not contact you again except to tell you if they are going to take specific action concerning the debt. If they contact you other than to tell you they are going to take specific action, it is recommended that you contact an attorney immediately.
Debt Collector Contacts With Other People
The debt collector may contact other people such as friends, relatives, or neighbors only to find out information about where you live and work. Normally they can only contact these people once. In most cases, they are not allowed to tell these people about your debt, but only obtain information about your address and work.
If an attorney represents you on this debt, notify the debt collector of your attorney’s name, address and phone number. The debt collector should then contact only the attorney.
What must the debt collector tell you?
A debt collector may contact you initially by telephone. If they do, they are required to send you a written notice within five days telling you the amount of the debt you owe, the name of the creditor that you owe the money to, and what action you should take if you do not owe the money.
Debt collectors can call you and request that you pay the debt. However, they cannot harass you or abuse you. Here are some examples of what debt collectors cannot do:
- Use obscene or profane language.
- Make repeated frequent calls to annoy you.
- Telephone you without identifying themselves.
- Use threats of violence or harm against you.
- Threaten to arrest you if you do not pay the debt.
- Threaten to take action such as lawsuits, garnishments, or taking your property unless the collector intends to do so and it is legal.
- Debt collectors cannot make false statements about themselves or the debts.
What should I do if I believe that I am a victim of Debt Collection Harassment?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act gives you a right to sue in state or federal court within one year from the violation. If you win, you can recover damages for your loss, court costs, and attorney’s fees. Remember that the one-year period runs from the date the debt collector violated the law. You should act promptly to contact an attorney if you believe a debt collector has violated the law. If you fail to file your suit within one year of the violation, you lose your right to do so. You can also notify the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of violations. They cannot file lawsuits on your behalf, but they can investigate your complaints. Their address is: Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580. You can also file a complaint through the Internet.
Proving Your Claim:
Make sure to keep any and all copies of everything that the debt collection agency sends you. It is recommended to use a file folder and keep all of your letters together. Additionally, make sure to keep copies of everything that you send to them as well.
When, and if, they call you, be sure to write down notes of the exact words they used while talking to you on the telephone. Right after you hang up, write a summary of everything they told you, and what you told them. Note the date and time they called you. Be sure to write down the persons name, telephone numbers used and the exact name of the company that they are with.
Remember, YOU HAVE RIGHTS!!!!If you believe you have been harassed by any debt collector, you should contact an attorney for specific legal advice on your problem.