What happens when you receive the dreaded notice from the debt collector, saying this is your last chance to pay up? Do you feel stressed out and worried?
Most debt collectors, especially those belonging to third party collection agencies, resort to unethical practices when collecting overdue debt. Regardless of their collection practices, it is important to not panic.
Typically, consumers are already stressed out when payments on credit cards or other loans, such as educational loans, fall behind schedule. When the crucial call about an overdue loan comes through, it can add layers of stress to the consumer’s mind. The good news is, there are laws in place to protect the consumer.
Legal Safeguards for Consumers
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from using abusive and deceptive practices when collecting debts. It applies to debts including personal, household, family, etc. This includes mortgages, car loans, credit card bills and medical loans. Ideally, a debt collector needs to follow up their visit with a written note which identifies the entity on whose behalf they are calling and details of the debt, including the amount owed. The written note should also contain instructions on what the consumer needs to do if they think they don’t owe the debt. Under the FDCPA guidelines, a consumer can write to the debt collector to stop contacting them and, instead, communicate with a representative or lawyer.
Similarly, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) provides consumers with the option to inform the debt collector to stop all contact.
Like the FDCPA, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act or TCPA also protects interests of the consumers, with a focus on telephones and communication over automated equipment, including cell phones. Debt collectors can be sued for violating the guidelines of the TCPA and depending on the severity of the violations, consumers can be awarded monetary compensation up to $1500 as well.
So, we come to the details of how to deal with debt collectors. Here is a list of behavior considered illegal for debt collectors:
- Calling consumers without identifying themselves as debt collectors or not leaving identification behind, including name and phone number. Pretending to be someone else; hiding their identity is also illegal.
- Calling consumers at their workplace without prior permission.
- Calling consumers constantly and at unreasonable hours, such as before 8 AM and after 9 PM, unless previously agreed upon by the consumer.
- Calling other people, including coworkers or extended family, and revealing details of the consumer’s debt to them.
- Calling and abusing the consumer, calling them names, using coercive tactics like pressuring them to sell off assets to pay off the debt, etc. are illegal.
What Can you do?
The guidelines listed above are representative for the legal protection available to consumers from debt collectors. However, to understand your rights better and to ensure you deal with a debt collector without fear or trauma, you need to arm yourself with information. If you write to a debt collector, keep proof, including a copy of the letter. If you have abusive phone calls coming in, try and maintain recordings to use as proof.
Contact a legal professional to help you. Different laws offer diverse protection to the consumer and understanding all of these can be challenging for someone not conversant with the law. Somebody who understands laws, especially debt collection laws, is best suited to help you.
Note: BBB Article ref. link https://www.bbb.org/articles/2017/04/28/bbb-tip-collection-agencies/
Legal Rights Advocates, PLLC is a law firm that helps clients who are facing harassment from debt collectors in any form, including over the telephone. Our team of attorneys, over the years, has helped countless clients get protections from debt collection practices that are deemed as unlawful and illegal.
If you are interested in learning more about how to safeguard yourself better from debt related harassment, call us at (855) 254-7841 for immediate assistance.