If you’ve been getting harassed by debt collectors, you’re not alone. And if you feel like this harassment is unfair, or possibly illegal, you may be right. If a debt collector has crossed the line by scaring or harassing you, there may be something you can do about it. Even if you have fallen behind on payments, a debt collector does not have the right to threaten and embarrass you!
When you have a debt that is overdue, sometimes a creditor will hire a third party debt collector to collect payments from you. The third party debt collector does the dirty work that your credit card companies, banks, doctor’s offices, and other creditors don’t want to do. It is their job to get as much money out of you as they can, and sometimes they go too far.
For example, if you are past due on your Capital One credit card, and someone other than Capital One calls you about it, then you’ve got a third party debt collector on you. Some of the most common debt collectors are: Midland Funding, Portfolio Recovery Services, and LVNV; but there are literally thousands of them squirming around, and many operate under several different names, so it’s hard for you to identify them.
The good news is that when these third party debt collectors go too far there is legal recourse available. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, “FDCPA”, sets rules for how debt collectors can treat you. The FDCPA establishes strict guidelines about what debt collectors can and cannot do when they contact you about a debt you owe.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE FDCPA:
- The FDCPA only applies to third-party debt collectors. It does not govern debt collections by the original creditor.
- It only applies to consumer debts.
- The FDCPA makes disrespectful, undignified, and unfair collection attempts illegal.
- Debt collectors can’t call you at work.
- Debt collectors can’t call you at odd hours of the day (or night).
- You cannot go to jail for failing to pay a debt, and a debt collector can’t threaten you with jail.
- If you tell a debt collector that you’d prefer they contact you in writing, they must stop calling you.
- You don’t have to communicate with a debt collector. You are completely within your rights to ignore them.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
If you feel your rights under the FDCPA have been violated, you can take these steps:
- Most importantly, start keeping meticulous records of your communications with the creditor. Save all billing statements, and collection letters you receive, and keep a log of the phone calls you get that includes:
- The date and time of the call
- The length of the call
- The name of the debt collector and the name of the agent you spoke with
- What was discussed
- Make a note of anything done or said that you feel was disrespectful, unfair, or threatening.
- For example, “On 8/3/15 at 3:03 p.m., Tim Z from RES Collection called me at work for the third time. I spoke to him for 3 minutes before hanging up on him. During the call, he stated that I could be arrested if I didn’t make a payment.”
- You can also request that the collector verify the debt, and that you wish to receive all future communication in writing only. This should prevent them from continuing to contact you, or, at least give you and even more solid foundation for a civil complaint if they ignore your request!
- You can report the collector to the BBB, FTC, and/or State Attorney General.
- And, of course, call us and schedule a free consultation to investigate whether you’re entitled to a judgment against them for an FDCPA violation.