It can be a worrying time when you have debt collectors contacting you about your debts. Collectors are entitled to chase the money owed to them, but there are restrictions set out by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which governs creditors’ behavior.
These restrictions are there to protect consumers, so if you have outstanding debt, you should know the ways in which the FDCPA protects you.
You can Control What Communication You Have with Collectors
The FDCPA sets out limitations on how often and where debt collectors can contact you. Collectors have been known to use different tactics to harass debtors into paying, and the FDCPA intends to give debtors control over when and where they can be contacted.
It is illegal for debt collectors to:
- Contact you early in the morning, before 8am, and after 9pm in the evening.
- Contact you at work if you’ve asked them not to.
- Contact you without consulting your attorney if you have one.
- Speak about your debt with third parties.
- Keep contacting you if you’ve requested not to be contacted.
In order to assert your communication preferences, you must write to the debt collector, rather than telling them over the phone. You can find templates online that will help you set out your preferences.
You Shouldn’t Be Harassed or Abused
Nobody should face being verbally abused or threatened, and the FDCPA protects you from these intimidation tactics. If you have written to the debt collection company, but are still being harassed, you should find an attorney for a consumer protection related lawsuit and seek advice.
Abusive behavior under the FDCPA includes:
- The use of profane language.
- Threats of violence.
- Repeat calls that are designed to annoy you.
- Not identifying as debt collectors.
- Listing your debt for sale to the public.
Debt Collectors Must Not Falsely Represent Themselves
Debt collectors need to make it clear who they are and why they are calling. They should not make false claims, such as stating that they work for a government agency in order to intimidate you into paying your debt.
There are a number of misrepresentations that are explicitly prohibited:
- The size of the debt.
- If it’s past the statute of limitations.
- Repercussions of not paying, such as imprisonment.
- Portraying themselves as government officials.
While debt collectors aren’t allowed to make these claims, they are not under any obligation to answer questions you might have.
Your Debts Must Be Validated
Debt collectors must validate your debt by means of a validation letter that asserts the following:
- How much you owe.
- Who the creditor is that’s seeking payment.
- That the collector will assume the debt is validated unless you challenge it within 30 days.
- If you challenge the debt or request information about the original creditor, the collector must provide that information.
You have the right to know what debt you owe and to whom, and the debt collection company must make this clear to you in writing. If this doesn’t happen, then you should speak to your lawyer to find out what your next steps should be.