Debt collection calls can make a bad situation worse, and not just because they’re stressful. High-pressure calls from debt collectors can create problems for you at work, strain relationships with family, and push you to make bad decisions that worsen your financial situation
Fortunately, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) places limits on debt collector calls and other communications. Some of the most important limitations involve:
- When debt collectors can legally contact you
- Who else debt collectors may contact and what they can say
- What debt collectors can say to you and what they must disclose
Knowing your rights under the FDCPA puts you in a better position to protect yourself and your family, make informed decisions, and fight back when debt collectors cross the line.
Limitations on Debt Collection Calls and Communications
Many debt collectors ignore the rules that protect you from dishonest or abusive debt collection communications. These tactics can be very effective for unscrupulous debt collectors, who will do or say anything to compel payment.
When you know the rules, you’re protected against those tactics. In fact, you may be able to turn the tables on the debt collector: the FDCPA provides for monetary damages when debt collectors break the law. A debt collector who crosses the line while trying to bully you into making a $50 or $100 payment could end up paying you $1,000!
Debt Collector Harassment and Abuse
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from abusive behavior such as:
- Using profanity or obscene language when speaking with you
- Threatening violence or other unlawful activity
- Refusing to identify themselves when contacting you
Debt collectors are also not allowed to call you repeatedly for the purpose of harassing you.
Debt Collector Deception
Some collectors use lies and misinformation to intimidate you during debt collection calls. When you’re under significant financial stress and struggling to keep your head above water, it can be very difficult to sort out the truth from empty threats. Familiarizing yourself with some of the common misrepresentations debt collectors make will empower you to make better decisions when debt collectors call.
Some of the most common (but unlawful) deceptive debt collector representations include:
- False representations that a lawsuit has been filed
- Threatening to file a lawsuit when they won’t (or even can’t) do so
- Misrepresenting the statute of limitations or other information about debt status
- Falsely claiming to be law enforcement officials, attorneys, or government officials
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from making this type of misrepresentations both on the telephone and in writing. In fact, a collection agency or debt buyer may be found to have violated the FDCPA without making a direct false statement. For example, a debt collector who sends a collection letter or presents you with paperwork that is designed to make you think the documents are from a court or law enforcement agency may be found in violation even though the collector never actually said they were legal documents.
Stop Debt Collector Calls to Third Parties
One strongarm tactic some debt collection agencies use is to call or threaten to call employers, neighbors, family, and friends. They hope that the fear of embarrassment or the disruption at work will compel the debtor to make payment—whether he or she can afford it or not.
However, there are strict limits on contacting third parties. For example:
- A debt collector cannot call you at work if the collector has been advised that your employer objects
- A debt collector may contact a third party only to obtain contact information for you
- A debt collector may not share information about you or your debt with a third party, with very limited exceptions (such as your attorney)
Like abuse, harassment and deception, unauthorized disclosure of personal information, unauthorized disclosure of personal information violates the FDCPA. A debt collector who breaks these rules may be compelled to pay damages to you and to pay your attorney’s fees.
Stop Debt Collector Abuses
Find out three ways to stop debt collector calls today. If debt collectors are harassing you, using abusive language, making threats, or you believe that you’ve been misled, contact us today to learn more about how you can fight back.