What a Debt Collector Can or Can't Do | John Steinkamp

Know your rights when you’re dealing with debt collectors. They must follow the law.

If not, you could sue a debt collector for violating consumer protection laws.

If you’ve been harassed by a debt collector, call our office. We offer a free case review.

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Debt Collector Tricks to Watch For:

Harassment

Debt Collectors may not use language, engage in conduct, or communicate in ways that would harass, oppress, or abuse any person.

Specifically, debt collectors may not:

  • Threaten you with violence to your person, your reputation, or your property
  • Advertise that you owe a debt or publish your name on a list of consumers that “refuse to pay their debts”. This does NOT prohibit debt collectors from reporting accurate information to your credit report.
  • Use language that is obscene or profane
  • Cause your telephone to ring constantly in a way that would be found to be harassing or oppressing.
  • Call you before 8:00am or after 9:00pm your time

UNFAIR PRACTICES

Debt collectors may not treat you unfairly or otherwise engage in unfair practices in their attempts to collect a consumer debt. This includes such practices such as:

  • Collecting, or attempting to collect any amount greater than the amount you actually owe, unless such amount is permitted by law.
  • Depositing a post-dated check more than 5 days prior to the date on the check, without giving you advance notice of when they intend to deposit it.
  • Soliciting a post-dated check in order to threaten criminal prosecution or threaten to cash the check early.
  • Cause you to incur collect call charges or pay for telegrams
  • Taking your property, or threatening to take your property unless the debt collector has the legal authority to do so. This also includes wrongful repossession of a vehicle.
  • Contacting you via postcard. Payments on Multiple Debts

Deception

Debt collectors may not deceive you or otherwise engage in deceptive practices or practices designed to deceive consumers. This specifically includes:

  • The practice of sending you any document that looks like an official document from a court or other governmental agency, when it is not
  • Providing others with false credit information about you
  • The use by a debt collector of a fake or otherwise false name, unless that name is allowed by state law and properly registered with the state, if required.

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False Statements

Debt collectors may not use any material false statements when attempting to collect a consumer debt. Specifically, debt collectors may not:

  • Give the false impression that they are an attorney or affiliated with a government entity
  • Give the false impression that you have violated a law or have otherwise committed a crime by not paying a debt
  • Give the false impression that they work for or operate a credit bureau
  • Misrepresent the amount, legal status, or character of a debt
  • Falsely indicate that papers they are sending you are legal documents when in fact they are not
  • Falsely indicate that papers they are sending you are NOT legal documents when in fact they are
  • State that they will take some sort of action against you when they have not intention or cannot legally take said action.

THREATs

In addition to the prohibitions above related to harassment, debt collectors may not employ threats when attempting to collect a debt.

This includes:

  • Threatening that you will be arrested for failing to pay a debt
  • Threatening to seize, attach, or garnish wages, or sell your property, unless the collection agency or the creditor actually intends to do so AND they have the right to do so.
  • Threatening actions the debt collector does not intend or cannot legally take.
  • Threaten to violate any law in an effort to collect a debt.

Unfairness

Debt collectors may not treat you unfairly or otherwise engage in unfair practices in their attempts to collect a consumer debt. This includes such practices such as:

  • Collecting, or attempting to collect any amount greater than the amount you actually owe, unless such amount is permitted by law.
  • Depositing a post-dated check more than 5 days prior to the date on the check, without giving you advance notice of when they intend to deposit it.
  • Soliciting a post-dated check in order to threaten criminal prosecution or threaten to cash the check early.
  • Cause you to incur collect call charges or pay for telegrams
  • Taking your property, or threatening to take your property unless the debt collector has the legal authority to do so. This also includes wrongful repossession of a vehicle.
  • Contacting you via postcard. Payments on Multiple Debts

Debt collectors must follow your instructions when applying your payments to multiple debts. Debt collectors cannot apply any payments you send in to debts that you believe you do not owe.

However, the key is notice, if you believe that you do not owe a debt, do NOT ignore it, provide the debt collector with notice that it is not your debt.

Can a creditor or debt collector make an automated call to my cell phone?

The TCPA is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which was passed into law in 1991. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued rules and regulations implementing the TCPA which then went into effect on December 20, 1992.

In general, consumers who have received prerecorded, automated or auto-dialed calls to cell phones from debt collectors or creditors may bring suit against the entity making those calls if the consumer has not given that entity express consent to call them on their cell phone.

If a company violates the TCPA the statute provides for statutory damages, generally from $500 to $1500 for each violation.

What rights do I have when a debt collector or creditor is trying to collect money from me?

Your rights are protected under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Review these frequently asked questions for an overview of what a debt collection agency or creditor legally can, or cannot do, in their efforts to collect money from you. Please contact our firms through the online form or by phone, for help if you think your rights have been violated.

Can I stop a debt collector from contacting me?

You can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collector telling them to stop.

Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again, except to tell you there will be no further contact, or to notify you that the debt collector, or the creditor intends to take some specific action.

Sending a letter to a debt collector that you actually owe money to will not get rid of this debt, however. You could still be sued by the creditor or collection agency.

Can a debt collector contact anyone else about my debt?

The debt collector must contact your attorney, if you have one, rather than you. If you do not have an attorney, a collector may contact other people, but only to find out where you live, what your phone number is, and where you work.

Also, collectors are only allowed to contact a third party once. In most cases, the collector may not tell anyone other than you and your attorney that you owe money. However, a debt collector may not disclose to anyone other than you or your spouse, anything about the alleged debt.

Can I dispute a debt at anytime?

Yes, you can dispute any aspect of the alleged debt, orally or in writing and at any time. Also, if you do dispute the debt and the collector reports to credit reporting agencies, they must list the debt as “disputed” on your credit reports.

If I believe a debt collector has violated the law, what can I do and how much money could I get?

You have the right to sue in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. You may recover money for the damages you suffered including emotional stress. Also, you can sue for statutory damages up to $1,000 for each violation if you prove a violation under the law.

Finally, court costs and attorney’s fees can be recovered. A group of people also may sue a debt collector and recover money for damages.

Is there specific information the debt collector must tell me about the debt?

The collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe within five days after you are first contacted.

This information must include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and how to proceed if you believe you do not owe the money.

Can a debt collector continue to contact me if I believe I do NOT owe money?

A collector may NOT contact you if, within 30 days after you receive the written notice, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money. However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent actual proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount you owe.

If I believe a debt collector has violated the law, what can I do?

You have the right to sue in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. You may recover money for the damages you suffered. In addition, court costs and attorney’s fees CAN be recovered.

A group of people also may sue a debt collector and recover money for damages. If you feel you have a legitimate case against a creditor or debt collector, please contact our off ice.

What rights do I have if a debt collector reports on my credit report?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal statute, enacted in 1970 to protect the rights of consumers, and regulate the practices of those who provide information to the credit reporting agencies, the agencies themselves and credit report users.

The FCRA states that a consumer can make a legal claim against, and sue the credit reporting agencies, creditors and debt collectors who report information that is wrong. If your credit report is wrong through no fault of your own, we can help. We offer a FREE* case review and can assist you in either ensuring the report is corrected in a timely manner or by pursuing a claim against those who fail to comply with the FCRA.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act offers specific consumer protections if you have been victimized by the crime of identity theft. Our credit report lawyers will do whatever can be done to ensure your credit and good name are not destroyed by the credit reporting agencies and your creditors, should this happen to you.

If you are being harassed by debt collectors unfairly, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act dictates what collectors can and cannot do in their efforts to collect debt. You can submit your information, or call our offices after reviewing the information on this site, to find out if a collector is in violation.

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Unsure of whether or not bankruptcy is right for you? Want to see if you are eligible for bankruptcy? I am ready to discuss all your options with you in a free case evaluation. Find trusted, dedicated advice today at John Steinkamp & Associates.

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