The actions of debt collectors are governed by a number of federal and state laws, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. These laws ensure debt collectors can’t engage in harassing or inappropriate activity to try to collect a debt.
Unfortunately, not all debt collectors follow the law. A debt defense lawyer can help you know where you stand if debt collectors are calling. They can also ensure you know your rights and provide advice on how to assert them. Start by learning about some common ways debt collectors violate the law below.
Using Threatening or Inappropriate Language
Debt collectors aren’t allowed to threaten you or use obscene language in their communications as they attempt to collect a debt. That includes:
- Using obscene language or profanity when speaking to you on the phone, texting you, emailing you, or sending you physical mail
- Threatening you via any communication form with arrest or jail time
- Threatening any type of civil legal action, such as repossession or foreclosure, that the debt collector is not able to follow through on
Making False Statements
Debt collectors are held to strict requirements when it comes to the facts. They can’t misrepresent how much you owe or make false statements about the status of your debt.
For example, if you owe $200, a collector can’t tell you that you owe $400 but they will take 50% in payment as a one-time-only settlement offer. They also can’t say that your debt is 180 days past due when it’s only 90 days past due or tell you the debt has been placed with an attorney’s office when no lawyer has been contacted.
Claiming to Be Someone They Aren’t
When trying to collect a debt, collectors and collection agencies must be upfront about who and what they are. A third-party collector can’t pretend to be from the original creditor’s office, for example, or purposefully give the impression they work for a government agency, credit bureau, or attorney’s office if they don’t. This includes sending mail made to look like official documents from a government agency, court, or lawyer’s office if they aren’t.
Sharing Information About Your Debt Inappropriately
Collectors can’t share your private information or details about your debt with just anyone. You may have put down references when you applied for credit, and those contacts could be passed along to collectors along with the debt. Collectors can call those people and other known loved ones, but only to ask for you or how to get in touch with you; they can’t disclose your debt information without you giving permission in writing.
Debt collectors can, however, disclose information about your debt to certain third parties such as credit bureaus, the original creditor, and your attorney if you tell the creditor a lawyer is representing you.
Calling You Constantly
There’s not a hard or fast rule in federal law about how often debt collectors can call you. However, the law is clear that collection agencies can’t use repeat and constant calls as a harassment method to get you to pay a debt.
Some actions that might be considered harassing or abusive include:
- Calling you several times a day, especially if you have already picked up and spoken to the debt collector once that day
- Calling you at inappropriate times of day, such as very early in the morning or late at night
- Calling you repeatedly in a short time period, such as back-to-back calls even if you didn’t pick up the phone
Calling You at Work When You Said You Can’t Take Calls There
Debt collectors are not allowed to keep calling you at work if you tell them you’re not allowed to receive personal calls on the job or otherwise ask them to stop.
Collectors also can’t reveal anything about your debt or that they are trying to collect a debt to your co-workers. For example, if a receptionist normally answers the phone at your place of work, the debt collector can only ask for you or leave their name and number and ask that you call them back. They can’t say they are from a collection agency or that they want to talk to you about a debt.
Contacting You After You Asked Them to Stop in Writing
If you ask the debt collector to stop contacting you in writing, they must cease all contact. That includes phone calls, texts, emails, and physical mail. The only exception is that the debt collector may send you a letter stating they received your request and will no longer contact you unless it’s to inform you of further collection activities such as a lawsuit.
Consistently Trying to Collect a Debt That Isn’t Owed
In some cases, you may be contacted by a debt collector about a debt you don’t owe. Perhaps you paid the original creditor already or the debt is for a fraudulent account in your name. If you document that the debt is not yours or you no longer owe it, the debt collector can’t keep trying to collect it.
Fight Back With Debt Defense
From asserting your consumer rights to filing bankruptcy for the protection of the automatic stay, there are many things you can do to protect yourself against debt collectors. Contact the Holland Law Office to learn more about how our team can help you protect your interests when debt collectors are calling.