Debt piles up due to loss of employment, illness and other life events. Outrageous interest rates, charges and fees are enough. But, over aggressive debt collectors top it off. Rude tactics at all hours violate the law.
Abusive Debt Collection
Federal law prohibits abusive debt collection, defined generally as conduct by debt collectors where they “harass, oppress, or abuse”. Specifically, bill collectors may not call without identifying themselves. They may not call before 9 am or after 8 pm. They may not call you at work. Unless you give permission, these calls violate federal law.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act also requires debt collectors to stop calling if you tell them you want no further contact. If you notify the collector that you are represented by an attorney and give the lawyer’s name and address, the collector then violates federal law by ever contacting you and not the lawyer. Of course, your attorney has a duty to reasonably communicate.
Within five days of a collection agency’s first communication with you, often an annoying telephone call, they must send you written notice. The notice must include information such as the amount owed, the name of the original creditor, and your right to dispute debt’s validity. If you do not dispute within 30 days, they’ll tell you they will consider it valid. If you do dispute, they must send you verification.
Debt Collectors Fined for Violations
In a 1995 case, a collection lawyer violated these rules and was fined over $10,000 by the court. The bill collector made up some language while trying to settle a debt instead of following the simple language of the law.
The law requires notice on all collections that they are an attempt to collect a debt and that information obtained will be used for that purpose. Use care in conversations with debt collectors. If you get too chummy, you may admit to charges you don’t owe. Never admit to a debt without first requesting verification.
Compare the source of the debt and all charges against your records. Debt collectors may not make up fees and charges. Any charges piled on top of the actual amount of your debt must be included in your agreement with the original creditor. Collectors may not speak to third parties about your debt. And, collections must cease while a debtor is on active military duty.
If debt seems insurmountable it may be advantageous to at least consider the bankruptcy option. View the bankruptcy blog posts on this site for bankruptcy options. Feel free to contact us for a consultation.