Debts happen to everyone. Houses, cars, school, large financial decisions and family disasters that must be paid for all create debts along with hundreds of unique situations in between personal and business life. Unfortunately, even if your debt started with a reputable company or financial firm, at some point that debt was ‘sold’ to a collections agency and they are far less respectful. Whether you have been fending off unending repetitive phone calls during dinner or the scoundrels have started calling you at work, it’s important to know that you have rights as a debtor. Protect yourself with as much information and knowledge on how to handle a debt collector when they come calling.
The FDCPA or Fair Debt Collection Practices Act has some very clear and enforceable rules about when and how debt collectors are allowed to contact you or handle your personal information. If a debt collection agency is going out of their way to make your life miserable, chances are that they have already broken a rule and you can force them to stop and possibly even take a chunk out of them before the day is through.
Calling Before 8AM or After 9PM (Your Time)
Debt collectors are not allowed to call you during normal sleeping hours, as this has been a known way to harass people beyond all reason in the past. It’s important to remember that the time matters where you are, not where they are so using a call center halfway across the world does not mean they can call you in the middle of the night or even a single hour early or late.
Calling Repeatedly and Continuously
Calls must take on the form of reasonable communication. If you have picked up and hung up once after trading a few words, they are not allowed to keep calling you, as this is a form of harassment and ties up your phone line which could cause you to be unable to reach 911 in case of an emergency.
Misrepresentation or Deception
Debt collectors often lie, claiming to have more authority than they really do. They are not allowed to claim to be police officers, lawyers, or representatives of any company other than their own. If a debt collector claims to be someone else to scare you, they are breaking the rules.
Publishing Your Name on a ‘Bad Debt’ List
Debt collectors are not allowed to make your debt public in any way. This means that they are not allowed to put your name on a ‘bad debt’ list on the internet, share it in a forum, or write about it on a bulletin board. If you find your name listed, keep a screenshot of the list as evidence and look for proof of who posted the information.
Inflating the Amount of Debt
It goes without saying that debt collection agencies are not exactly at the peak of business morality but some take it further than others. Your debt should equal the amount in your original contract plus any interest that gathered before the account was closed and the debt was sold. This should be legally calculable. Any extra ‘padding’ added by the debt company is an attempt to defraud you and is illegal.
Threatening Legal Action
Debt collection agencies have the option to sue you for the money, but they mostly don’t want to because this is expensive. They cannot have you arrested or sent police to your house and if they threaten this, they are both lying and breaking the law. They are also not allowed to threaten to sue you if they don’t intend to, so you might be able to call their bluff or force their hand if that threat arises.
Using Abusive Language
Debt collectors make it a habit to be abrasive and irritating but some go overboard and actually start cursing. The moment insulting, belittling, threatening, or curse words come out of their mouths, they have officially violated the FDCPA, as debt collectors are not allowed to use abusive language or profanity in the course of their work.
Here at Aiman-Smith & Marcy, we specialize in protecting ‘the little guy’ from harassing employers, big corporations, and harassing debt collectors. Join us next time as we cover the rest of this impressive collection of rules designed to thwart surprisingly vile tactics and how to prepare your lawsuit against people who have disrespected your legal rights to privacy and peace of mind.