The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) was put in place by the federal government nearly 40 years ago to protect consumers from renegade debt collectors. It outlines, very specifically, what a debt collector can and cannot do.
To stay legal, collectors must follow it exactly. If not, they can be fined by the government. If a collection company is abusive or habitually violates the FDCPA, they can be blacklisted from the industry for life.
The trouble is… debt collectors get away with violating the FDCPA all the time!
Because we consumers don’t understand our rights under the FDCPA, or what violating those rights means.
Below, you’ll find a simple checklist you can use to determine if you might be a victim of FDCPA violations.
If you believe you are being harassed by a debt collector, do these 4 things:
1. Keep copies of everything the debt collector sends you
2. Keep a list of dates, times, names, and phone numbers of everyone who contacts you about collecting the debt. If possible, record all phone calls. (You can bet the debt collector is recording YOU!)
3. Contact all of the following offices to report the possible FDCPA violation:
Your State Attorney General’s office. Use this website to find the correct contact information.
The Federal Trade Commission. You can file a free, online complaint on the FTC’s complaint assistant website
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. File your complaint online here.
4. Find a good consumer rights attorney. Many will review your case for you for free. You can start by contacting the National Association of Consumer Attorneys via their website www.naca.net.
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You may be a victim of FDCPA Violations if a debt collector:
◊ Does not use the “mini-Miranda” at the beginning of your initial contact. The “mini-Miranda” explains the purpose of the call and goes something like this: “This communication is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose”.
◊ Calls you before 8 am or after 9 pm, according to YOUR time zone. If you are in New York and they are in California, they don’t get to call you late at night because they are 3 hours behind.
◊ Calls you over and over again as a means of harassment.
◊ Uses rude, profane, or insulting language.
◊ Continues to call you after you send them a letter telling them to stop calling you at home, on your cell phone, or at work. (Note: this does not make the collection action stop, just the calls.)
◊ Continues to contact you personally after you have informed them that you have hired an attorney to handle all communications.
◊ Publicly reveals any details about what you may (or may not) owe when calling third parties or by mailing you a postcard that openly states you are being contacted for a collection. (However, they CAN call family members or your employer to get your contact information, but that’s all.)
◊ Threatens to have you arrested.
◊ Threatens to sue you if they do not actually intend to do so.
◊ Threatens to have certain federal benefits garnished, like social security, disability, or veteran’s benefits. (In a few rare cases, these types of income can be garnished so be sure to contact an attorney.)
◊ Attempts to collect more than the actual amount you owe.
◊ Refuses to officially validate the debt in questions OR continues to contact you without sending a validation AFTER you have requested one IN WRITING. The validation must include the name of the original creditor and the amount you are reported to owe. (Once you request the validation, they have 30 days to produce one and are not permitted to contact you during that time except to tell you the validation has been sent.)
So… what’s the big deal about the FDCPA?
If a debt collector violates any of your rights, you can counter sue them! If the violation is severe enough, your debt may be forgiven and you can even be awarded additional monetary damages. Knowing your rights gives YOU power over the debt collectors.
You NEVER have to be a victim of unlawful and harassing debt collector practices again!
Once you have resolved your collections account, it is important to update the information on your credit report. NCES can help you reach out to the three credit agencies and have your resolved collections reversed and marked “paid as agreed”.
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If you have any questions, please give us a call at 770-952-5168 or contact us online.
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This information is intended for informational and educational purposes only and not as legal advice. If you have concerns about your credit report, harassment, identity theft, illegal collections activity, garnishments, or property liens, you should consult a attorney who specializes in consumer rights and defense.