Tips to Spot 5 Illegal Debt Collection Practices
Being in debt is always stressful. However, that stress is often compounded when you are harassed and hounded by debt collectors on a regular, sometimes even daily, basis.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects consumers from unfair debt collection practices. This law applies to third-party debt collectors for personal debts. It doesn’t involve creditors who are legally attempting to recover debts owed to them.
The laws in your state may also protect you beyond this act. In addition to certain practices for collecting being annoying, many are also illegal. As a result, it’s helpful to know about these five unlawful debt collection practices and how to spot them.
Attempting to Collect Debts Not Owed
One of the biggest complaints consumers have is being asked to pay debts they do not owe. By law, if you don’t owe the debt in question, you have a legal right to request, in writing, that you want verification of the debt. You can also request that the debt collector cease all contact with you. Doing this in writing is wise as it ensures that you have proof that you made the request.
In many cases, when collectors try to claim a debt that you don’t owe, you may be a victim of identity theft. Always check your credit report to see if there are any mistakes or unusual activity.
Not Providing Written Notification of Debt
By law, a collector must provide you with written notice of the debt they are trying to collect from you within five days of the first contact. They must include the amount of that debt, the original creditor to whom the debt is owed, and a statement of your right to dispute the debt. If you do not receive this notification, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. If you do receive written notice, it should include all the details of the debt.
Harassing Communication Methods
Collectors are prohibited from harassing you when they call or contact you by any other means. This is the law. At the same time, the FDCPA doesn’t specify a set number of calls debt collectors can make within any given time frame. Instead, the court can determine what is appropriate and what is considered harassment.
You can take note of the days and times you receive calls and record messages as evidence. Collectors also cannot legally contact you before 8 AM or after 9 PM unless you’ve expressly allowed them to do so.
Threats of Legal Action
According to the law, debt collectors are not allowed to threaten legal action or wage garnishment even if you do owe a debt. Likewise, they aren’t allowed to threaten you with jail time or a poor credit rating unless they have the authority to do so. Such threats violate the FDCPA. Collectors must first sue in court and actually win their cases before they can take any legal action against you.
You can look up a list of debt collectors in the United States and read up on the actions they can legally take.
Making False Statements or Representations
Debt collectors are prohibited from using false statements or representations to force you into cooperating with them. This rule holds true even if you owe a debt. If they claim an affiliation with a government or state, tell you that you will face prison time, lose property, or have your wages garnished, or even imply that you committed a crime, it violates the FDCPA.
If you have been harassed by debt collectors who are violating the law, you need the assistance of a skilled attorney.