We are constantly talking about the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and how certain creditors can violate it when contacting you for money. However, the majority of Americans are unfamiliar with the protections afforded them by the FDCPA and what remedies they have for violations.
Here is a very simplified overview of the FDCPA so that you know when a debt collector is violating your rights.
The FDCPA was enacted to eliminate and prevent abusive practices in the collection of consumer debts. Under the FDCPA, you have the right not to be “harassed” by debt collectors and can file a civil lawsuit against them if they violate this rule.
The Protections Afforded by the FDCPA Are Broad. Under the Act, Debt Collectors and Creditors Cannot:
- Publish your name as someone who does not pay their debt;
- Threaten you with violence or harm;
- Threaten to garnish or seize assets that collectors cannot touch, as a matter of law;
- Add unauthorized late fees, interest charges, collections fees, surcharges or attorney’s fees;
- Pretend to be associated with law enforcement or the court system in an effort to scare you into paying them money;
- Use a false company name or pretend to be a law firm when they are not;
- Call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. at night;
- Repeatedly call you multiple times a day or night;
- Contact you via a postcard in the mail;
- Use profanity or obscene language when speaking with you; or
- Lie to you about anything, including their identity, employer, the amount of your debt, etc.While this list may seem pretty straightforward, you would be surprised at how many debt collectors violate these rules every day. Some of the most common FDCPA violations that we have seen recently include statements made by creditors to consumers:
- falsely claiming that you have committed a crime or will be arrested for not paying a debt;
- misrepresenting the actual amount of debt owed, usually by adding outrageous late penalties, surcharges, and interest fees that are illegal or not authorized on the account;
- Stating that forms sent to you by the creditor are legal forms when they aren’t;
- falsely claiming that the debt collector works for a law firm or government agency;
- falsely claiming that the collector works for a credit reporting agency;
- Threatening to seize assets from you that the creditor is not allowed to take, by law; and
- Threatening to file a lawsuit against you when the creditor knows that the statute of limitations has expired.
If a debt collector has made any of these statements or threats to you and you believe they are lying or that your rights have been violated, you must contact a knowledgeable consumer rights attorney—like those at Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC—to determine whether you are the victim of FDCPA violations. You can receive up to $1,000 in compensation if you prove that the debt collector(s) violated the FDCPA.
You should also know that you have the right to have debt collectors stop contacting you altogether. All you have to do is write a letter to the debt collector request that communications cease. This does not, however, make the debt disappear. It just means that the next time you are contacting, it will probably be service of a lawsuit against you for the debt.
If you have or are being harassed by a debt collector or believe your rights are being violated by one, you need the help of a qualified debtor’s rights attorney—like those at Fitzgerald & Campbell, APLC— to review your case and help protect your rights. Our attorneys have decades of experience representing clients in all types of debtor defense cases and we are here to help you!