If you are behind on bills or credit card payments, you might get a call from a debt collector. Unfortunately, debt collection harassment and abuse are fairly common. In response to complaints of unethical communication methods and manipulative tactics used by debt collectors, Congress passed The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA is intended to protect consumers from debt collection harassment and outlines specific guidelines that debt collectors must adhere to. If you are contacted by a debt collector, it is important to know your rights.
What Can a Debt Collector Legally Do?
Debt collectors work for creditors and can do little more than demand that borrowers pay off their debts. If your creditor has not taken your house or any other valuable property as collateral on your loan, then they are legally limited in the actions they can pursue. When a consumer fails to pay back their debts, a creditor or debt collector can take the following actions:
- They can refuse to do business with the consumer in the future.
- They can sue the consumer in court.
- They can report a default to the three major credit bureaus.
In the case that a debt collection agency pursues legal action against a borrower, they will most likely try to seize a part of the borrower’s wages or property as a form of payment. If a debt collector brings you to court, it is best to consult with a debt settlement lawyer.
What Are Debt Collectors Not Allowed to Do?
While debt collectors are legally allowed to contact you for payment, they must abide by rules outlined in federal and state laws. The FDCPA outlines specific protections that prevent debt collectors from engaging in harassment-like behaviors. Additionally, the law protects against manipulative tactics used by debt collectors to misrepresent the amount owed by the borrower. Under the rules in the FDCPA, debt collectors cannot:
- Excessively call you or your employer or contact you at odd hours of the day
- Use threatening, aggressive, or obscene language
- Misrepresent the amount you owe
- Falsely claim that you will be arrested or that legal action will be taken against you
- Threaten to take your car, house, or any other valuable property, unless it is legally allowed
- Charge additional fees on top of the amount you owe, unless it is outlined in the original loan agreement.
If you have experienced any of these behaviors with a debt collector, it is considered harassment and can be reported.
What to Do If You Have a Problem with a Debt Collector
Unfortunately, many debt collectors do not comply with federal and state laws. If you suspect a debt collector has violated your rights, you should report your incident to:
- The Federal Trade Commission
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Your state’s Attorney General
In addition to reporting debt collector violations, you can also pursue legal action. Most states allow you to sue a collector in court within one year of the violation. You can sue debt collectors for damages including lost wages, medical bills, and attorney fees. Even if you can’t prove that you suffered damages, you may still be reimbursed up to $1,000.
Consult a Skilled Debt Settlement Lawyer
If you are struggling with debt and have had your rights violated by a debt collector, you should contact a debt settlement lawyer. At McCarthy Law, our debt negotiation lawyers will review your financial situation with you and explain your options. To schedule a consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced debt settlement paralegal, call our office at (855) 976-5777 or fill out an online contact form today.