You have rights as a debtor even if you are behind in payments and your debt is in collections. Being behind on payments doesn’t turn you into Mad Max under Marshall Law where the creditors or collectors can do anything they want to get you to pay them. There are rules they must follow, and, if they don’t, they are breaking the law, and there are repercussions and penalties.
Your rights as a debtor are clearly laid out in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, also known as the FDCPA. FDCPA sets out to make sure that you are not harassed or treated unfairly by the collection attempts of those to whom you owe money. FDCPA guidelines are designed to protect consumer debt including debt that came from personal use, but it does not cover business debt. According to the FDCPA, anyone who collects debt on a regular basis, such as a specific agency, any lawyer who specializes in debt collection, or a company known to purchase debts that are in arrears, is considered a “debt collector”.
Here are a some FDCPA rules:
- They cannot phone you, at any time, between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. Such times are considered inconvenient and are off limits, unless you specifically give the collector verbal or written notice that they may call during these times.
- They cannot contact you at your place of employment, so long as you have submitted to them, either in writing or verbally, that your employer prohibits this.
- They may not, under any circumstances, discuss your financial situation with a third party.
- They may not lie about how much money is owed to them by you.
- They may not impersonate an officer of the law.
- They may not threaten you with arrest pending payment of your debt.
- They may not make a threat relating to seizure or garnishment of wages or property unless that is their full intent as allowed by law.
- They may not report falsified information of any kind about you to anyone.
- They may not falsify the name of their company.
Don’t Be Afraid to Communicate with a Debt Collector
Before you attempt to stop the collector from calling you, you can make an attempt to resolve the issue. If you believe that the debt or the amount of the debt has not been correctly evaluated or assigned to you, you can communicate with them over the phone and let them know the details of the problem with the debt being collected upon. If you know you are unable to pay the amount owed in the time frame in which they are expecting the payment, you can try to negotiate with them to see if there are any other payment arrangements you can make. If, after discussing options with the debt collector, you prefer that they no longer make contact with you, you can do this by telling them to stop in writing.
The best way to do this is by writing the letter and making two copies. The original letter should be sent, via certified mail. Asking for a return receipt will allow you to document that the collector has indeed received your request. After taking this action, the collector may no longer contact you except to say that a particular act, such as their intent to sue you, is being pursued. Communicating with a collector in this manner does not negate the amount that you owe, but rather only stops them from being able to contact you in regards to your account. They may still take legal actions in order to collect any money owed.
Any violations of the above FDCPA guidelines can result in penalties for the debt collector. You should keep track of any records of events if you plan to pursue some type of penalty for the debt collector who you believe has violated an FDCPA guideline. You can find out more about FDCPA rules at the Federal Trade Commission website.
There are also very specific rules to collection activities following a bankruptcy filing by the debtor. If you have filed a bankruptcy and you communicate this to the creditor or debt collector and also give them the contact information for your attorney, they are only allowed to contact your attorney and no longer allowed to contact you directly. Any phone calls or contact must go through the legal representative instead of directly to the debtor.
Bankruptcy Law Professionals can help you with your bankruptcy filing and also help you with any FDCPA violations that you may experience with your creditors. Contact us at 855 257-7671.