Guest Post Written by Sergei Lemberg, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Lawyer
Debt Collector Calling? Know Your Rights!
Since the Great Recession began in 2008, debt collectors have been working overtime. Between falling real estate values and rising unemployment, consumers have had less money to pay their bills. From the debt collector’s perspective, it’s no longer a matter of trying to convince consumers to part with the money they have; rather, it’s a matter of proverbially trying to squeeze money out of a turnip. The result? All too often, debt collectors ratchet up the pressure and cross the line into illegal debt collection practices.
That’s where the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act comes into play. If you’re on the receiving end of debt collection calls, you need to know your rights in order to level the playing field and keep from becoming a victim. Here are five aspects of the FDCPA that are helpful to know in fighting back.
1. The FDCPA covers all consumers. Your right to be free of debt collector harassment is protected under the FDCPA whether or not you owe the debt. Often, third party debt collectors (especially those who work for debt buyers) have sketchy contact information and wind up calling the wrong person. Then, they continue calling even if they’re told they have the wrong number. If the debt collector crosses the line, you have a right to action under the FDCPA even if you’ve never heard of the person the debt collector is trying to contact.
2. The FDCPA regulates the time and place of calls. Essentially, debt collectors can’t call before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. (unless you’ve asked them to), or at your workplace if you’ve told them that you’re not allowed to take calls at work.
3. Debt collectors can’t embarrass you. Debt collectors can’t call other people (such as friends and family members) except to obtain contact information for you. They can’t reveal to third parties that they’re attempting to collect a debt, which means that they can’t blab to other people, but also that they generally can’t leave a voicemail mentioning the debt.
4. Threats and other types of abuse are forbidden. The FDCPA says that debt collectors can’t threaten you with an action that they can’t or don’t intend to take. So, for example, a debt collection agency can’t threaten to sue you unless they plan on doing so. Debt collectors can’t threaten to take your property (unless it was used as collateral), have you arrested (owing a debt isn’t a crime), or garnish your wages.
5. You have the right to sue the debt collector. If a debt collection agency has crossed the line, the FDCPA gives you the right to sue the debt collector. Typically, fair debt attorneys won’t charge you a dime, because if you have a case and win, the debt collector will pay for court costs and attorney fees. Plus, once you have an attorney, all communication must go through him or her, so the debt collection calls will stop.
Remember that the FDCPA was enacted in order to protect your rights. All too often, consumers fall victim to illegal debt collection tactics because they don’t have the knowledge to fight back. Even if you owe an outstanding debt, you have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.