Consumers Are Protected From Aggressive Debt Collection Practices
Sometimes the poor treatment of a customer is more than just bad business — it’s illegal. If you are being harassed by a debt collector, the collections agency may be in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
The FDCPA outlines how debt collectors — such as bill collectors, collections agencies and corporate collections departments — can go about seeking the repayment of debt from consumers. The FDCPA forbids aggressive practices such as:
- Making violent threats
- Threatening to file a lawsuit
- Using profane or obscene language
- Calling friends and/or family members
- Attempting to reach debtors at work
- Threatening to garnish wages
- Early morning and/or late-night calls
- Misrepresenting one’s identity
How Can The FDCPA Help You As A Consumer?
If the above practices or other abusive behavior has been used against you in an attempt to collect debts, you may be able to obtain compensation according to the provisions of the law. In addition to financial compensation, the FDCPA can put a stop to the harassment and to debt collectors contacting you.
To learn more about the FDCPA, see:
Had Enough Of Debt Collectors? Put Our Attorney On Your Side.
At the Law offices of Todd M. Friedman in Woodland Hills, California, we are committed to protecting the rights of consumers. If you cannot take the harassment and abuse another day, we want to make things right for you.
Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation with our nationwide FDCPA lawyer. You speak directly with an attorney when you work with our firm, saving you time and alleviating uncertainty.
Fair Debt Collection Protection Act Illegal Threats
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the federal law relating to debt collection practices that prohibits debt collection agencies from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect debts. If you think a debt collection company has violated the FDCPA in its debt collection efforts with you, then you should seek the help of an FDCPA attorney.
When you are dealing with a debt collector or currently have a debt that could soon go into collection, you should be aware of what debt collection agencies may do under the law as well as what they are not allowed to do. The FDCPA is codified under Title 15 U.S Code § 1692 and makes the following tactics illegal.
Prohibited Tactics Under the FDCPA
With certain exceptions, a debt collection agency cannot contact a third party about your debt. Debt collectors may contact your attorney because when the debt collector knows you have legal representation, it must talk to the attorney only instead of you unless you give the debt collector permission to contact you or your attorney does not respond to the communications.
A debt collector can also contact a credit reporting agency and the original creditor. They are also able to contact your spouse, your parents (when you are a minor), and any of your codebtors.
They cannot make any of these contacts when you have sent a letter asking them to cease such communications. A debt collector can also contact a third party for the specific purpose of getting information about your whereabouts.
In such contacts, debt collectors:
- Cannot say that you owe a debt
- Must state their name and state that they are confirming location information about you
- Cannot identify an employer unless asked
- Cannot contact a third party more than one time unless required to do so by that third party, or unless they believe a third party’s earlier response was wrong or incomplete and that party has the correct or complete information
- Cannot communicate with a postcard
- Cannot use symbols or words on the outside of an envelope indicating they are trying to collect a debt if either gives away the purpose of the letter
- Cannot call third parties for location information when they know an attorney represents you
A debt collector’s initial communication with you needs to tell you that they are trying to collect a debt and also that any information that they obtain from you will be used for that purpose. The debt collector also needs to state that the communication is from a debt collector in subsequent communications.
In any later communications, a debt collector has to tell you the collector’s name and the collection agency’s name. Debt collectors do not have to identify which consumers cannot communicate in English, nor provide translations in multiple languages.
A debt collector will be forbidden from contacting you:
- at an inconvenient or unusual time or place (calls before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. are generally prohibited, although for people who work nights and sleep during the day, calls in the middle of the afternoon could then be inconvenient
- Directly when the debt collector knows or should know that you have an attorney
- at work when a debt collector knows that your employer prohibits you from receiving collections calls at your place of employment
Debt collection agencies are also forbidden from engaging in conduct that is meant to harass, oppress, or abuse. This means they cannot:
- use obscene, profane, or abusive language
- call you repeatedly
- use or threaten to use violence
- make telephone calls to you without identifying the caller as a bill collector.
- either harm or threaten to harm you, another person, or your or another person’s reputation or property
- list any of your debt for sale to the public
- publish your name as a person who does not pay bills
The FDCPA establishes that a debt collector cannot call a debtor more than seven times in seven consecutive days or within any period of seven consecutive days after they have a telephone conversation with a debtor in connection with the collection of such debt. The date of a telephone conversation will be the first day of the seven-consecutive-day period.
The limitation applies to each particular debt, not per consumer. This means a debt collector is able to call you more often if you owe on several debts when they are trying to collect.
The limitation on telephone call frequency limit includes three exclusions:
- calls in which you gave prior consent
- calls not connected to a dialed number
- calls placed to specific professional persons, such as an attorney
A collection agency cannot lie. This means it is prohibited from:
- claiming to be a law enforcement agency or suggesting that it is connected with the federal, state, or local government
- falsely representing the amount you owe or the amount of compensation the collection agency will receive
- claiming to be an attorney or that a communication is from an attorney
- claiming that you will be imprisoned or your property will be seized, unless a collection agency or original creditor actually intends to take action that may result in your going to jail or property being taken
- threatening to take actions that are not actually intended or cannot be taken
- falsely claiming you have committed a crime
- threatening to sell a debt to a third party, and claim that, as a result, you will lose defenses to payment you had against the creditor, such as a breach of warranty
- communicating false credit information
- sending you a document that looks like it is from a court or attorney or part of a legal process if it is not
- using a false business name
- claiming to be employed by a credit bureau unless the collection agency and the credit bureau are the same company
A debt collection agency also cannot engage in any unfair or outrageous method to collect a debt. This means it cannot:
- add interest, fees, or charges that were not authorized in the original agreement or by state law
- ask for a postdated check for the sole purpose of threatening you with criminal prosecution
- accept any check postdated by more than five days unless the debt collector notifies you between three and 10 days in advance of when it intends to deposit the check
- deposit any postdated check prior to the date written on the check
- cause you to incur any communications charges, such as collect call fees, by concealing the real purpose of the communication
- threaten to repossess or seize your property when it has no right to do so or no intention of doing so
- communicate with you by postcard
- put any symbols or words on the outside of an envelope sent to you that indicate it is trying to collect a debt
A debt collector also cannot communicate or attempt to communicate with you by sending email to any email address that the debt collector knows is a work email address. Exceptions to this rule may include when a debt collector sends messages to your work email when you used the email address to communicate with the debt collector about the debt and you have not opted out since or when you gave prior consent directly to a debt collector that it could use the work email address and you have not withdrawn that consent.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About FDCPA Illegal Threats
How do I report debt collectors for doing something illegal?
Report any problems you have with a debt collector to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), or your state attorney general. Most states have their own debt collection laws that are different from federal laws, so your state attorney general’s office will be able to help you determine your rights under your state laws.
What can I do when I think a debt collector broke the law?
In addition to reporting them, you can sue a debt collector in a state or federal court. You will have to file such a lawsuit within one year of when the debt collector broke the law. If you lose wages or incurred medical bills because of what a debt collector did, you can sue for those damages as well. If you cannot prove damages, the judge may still award you up to $1,000 as well as reimburse you for attorney’s fees and court costs.
Is a debt collector right to state that my federal benefits may be garnished?
When you have an unpaid debt, a creditor or debt collector could get a court order to try and take money from your bank account to pay the debt, often called a garnishment. Most federal benefits are exempt from garnishment, except in cases involving payment of child support, alimony, delinquent taxes, or student loans.
States will have their own laws about which state benefits can be garnished. Federal benefits that are usually exempt from garnishment include Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, veterans benefits, federal student aid, military annuities and survivors’ benefits, benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, railroad retirement benefits, and federal emergency disaster assistance.
Call Us Today to Schedule a Free Consultation with an FDCPA Attorney
Do you believe a debt collector acted illegally while contacting you? The Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C. can handle your case and fight to make sure the debt collector is held accountable.
Our firm understands what constitutes FDCPA violations and knows how to make sure that you are able to achieve a certain measure of justice. Call (818) 646-5690 or contact us online to take advantage of a free consultation that will allow us to review your case and go over everything we might be able to do for you.