Debt collectors are mostly like mosquitoes. They can be troublesome and difficult to dissuade. Luckily, a debt collector can’t do a lot except contacting you and mailing you letters. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) sets out the acts that a debt collector may and may not take in the debt collection process.
Your state has additional laws that could further restrict debt collectors. It’s worth investigating these laws, so you understand the rules and know how to deal with debt collectors accordingly.
What Debt Collectors can do:
- Call you directly between the hours of 8 am and 9 pm. However, you have the right to request not to be contacted by phone again in the future. This request must be done in writing. You can also insist that the debt collector only contact your attorney instead.
- Contact you via mail. However, it can’t be apparent to those looking at your mail that the correspondence is from a debt collector. Postcards are not allowed, as the essence of the correspondence will be apparent.
- Take you to court. The details are very state-specific, but your creditors can certainly take you to court. For smaller debts, this rarely happens. If you had the money, you’d have already paid it. If you don’t have it, an expensive legal proceeding isn’t worth the effort.
- Ask for postdated checks. This is permitted under the FDCPA, but may not be permissible under the debt collection laws of your state.
- Report your payment delinquency to the credit bureaus. Paying your bills on time is an important part of your credit score.
- Accept less than the full amount as payment in-full. This can be a great option to get the collection agency off your back. The debt may appear to be “settled” on the credit report, which is detrimental to your score. You might also have to pay taxes on the debt amount that has been forgiven.
Debt collectors must comply with the laws of the FDCPA alongside your state of residence. If you owe money, it’s reasonable to expect that your creditor will try to collect that debt. However, there are limitations. Many collection practices are illegal.
What Debt Collectors Can’t Do:
- Call you on a Sunday. Monday through Saturday is a fair game, but even the debt collectors have to take a Sunday break.
- Call after 9 o’clock or before 8 o’clock. The only way that debt collectors can contact you after these hours is with your consent.
- Contact your employer. If the debt is due to the non-payment of child support, the employer is out of reach. They can’t get in touch with you at work, either, if they know you don’t want to be concerned about it.
- Contact your friends, family, or neighbors regarding your debt. They can, however, contact these people to decide your address or telephone number. It can’t be disclosed that you owe any money.
- Use offensive language on the call. Any obscene language or threat of jail or loss of reputation is not permitted.
- Call you repeatedly during a short period of time. This is available for interpretation. But if you are regularly getting a call, it can be considered stalking under the FDCPA. In this case, you could sue the debt collector.
This is a short list of things that many debt collectors are found to have abused. Familiarize with the FDCPA for additional limitations. You will then know how to deal with a debt collector. Remember that these rules only apply to debt collectors and not the in-house collection employees of your creditor. See your state laws for additional guidance.
Debt collectors can be irritating, but they are obligated to abide by the laws just like anyone else. Any breach of any of the rules may result in a fine of $1,000 and the debtors have been very effective in recovering the fines in court.
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