By Mark Scott
Having debt hanging over your head is never a fun experience. It can be very stressful. When you have a collection agency constantly hounding you to pay the debt, it can make everything so much worse. Collection agencies are known for unscrupulous business practices. To protect yourself from unfair debt collection tactics, it is important to know your rights.
When a debt collection agency pursues a debt that you owe, you have many protections under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Learning about your rights can help you identify when a collector has violated them and possibly put you in the position to sue the agency.
What Is the FDCPA?
The FDCPA is a federal law regulating the business practices of debt collection agencies for personal debts. This law only applies in cases where the debt is being pursued by a collection agency, no by the original creditor. The law also does not apply to business debt.
The fact that you owe money does not make you a criminal, and the FDCPA works to help ensure that you are not treated like one.
Rules for Debt Collection Agencies Under the FDCPA
There are many things that the FDCPA prohibits collection agencies from doing in the pursuit of a debt.
When They Can Call
Collection agencies are forbidden from calling you before eight in the morning or after nine at night unless they have your permission to do so. They are also not allowed to contact you when you are at work if they are made aware that your employer does not approve of the calls.
Who They Can Talk To About Your Debt
A debt collector is not allowed to discuss your debt with whomever they please. The only people they are allowed to communicate with directly about your debt are you and your spouse if you have one. If you are a minor, they can also discuss your debt with a parent or guardian.
Beyond this small group of people, the debt collector is forbidden from discussing the details of your debt with anyone else. If they can not get in contact with you, the agency is allowed to reach out to your friends or family in order to get your contact information. Beyond getting your contact details, they are not allowed to discuss the debt any further. They are also only allowed to contact others for this information once.
If you hire a lawyer to represent you and give the debt collector your lawyer’s contact details, the debt collector is no longer allowed to contact you, or anyone else, regarding the money you owe. All communication with the collection agency will now go through your lawyer, who will relay any pertinent information.
Reporting Your Debt
The debt collector is not allowed to publish any sort of list about people with unpaid debt. However, they can report your debt to a credit reporting agency. As a result, your credit score would be negatively impacted.
Things They Can Say
Debt collectors are not allowed to harass you. They can not threaten you. They can not imply that you have committed a crime. Generally, they must treat you decently in pursuit of collecting your debt. Do not let a debt collector intimidate you. If they attempt to do so, they are breaking the law set down by the FDCPA and are exposing themselves to legal action.
A Written Request to Cease Contact
When a debt collection agency is pursuing your debt, they can contact you through the phone, mail, or email. However, if you send a written request for them to cease further contact, they are required to do so. While the agency that currently holds the account for your debt is no longer allowed to contact you about it, that does not mean that you will not hear from anyone regarding your debt again.
Once your debt has gone to a collection agency, if they are unable to collect the debt within a few months, it typically will be passed on to another agency. The first agency may not be allowed to contact you anymore after your letter to cease contact. However, the new agency is free to contact you until they receive a new written request from you, asking them to desist.
This can go on and on for years as your debt continues to be passed from collection agency to collection agency.
Your Right to Sue
When a debt collector violates your rights under the FDCPA, you have the right to sue. You must file your lawsuit within one year of the violation. If your lawsuit is successful, you could receive as much as $1,000 plus damages and lawyer fees.
About the Author
With a law degree under his belt and years of experience, Mark Scott set off to make the law more accessible to all. He decided to help people lost in the maze of legal terminology to find their way. Mark writes clear and concise pieces and gives simple advice that is easy to follow. On account of positive feedback from readers, he decided to dedicate more of his time to this goal and became a legal columnist. In his writings, Mark covers a wide array of topics, like how to seek legal counsel, or how to deal with different procedures. Furthermore, he directs his readers toward other trustworthy resources for more in-depth information.