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Common Debt Collection Questions

On Behalf of | Jan 24, 2013 | Consumer Protection

In the literally thousands of consumers that we have assisted here at SmithMarco, PC and our Protecting Consumer Rights website, we have seen what the most popular questions or concerns are about collections.  Here we answer them for all:

When can a debt collector contact me?
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) the federal statute specifically states that a debt collector may not contact you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. Furthermore, the law states that a collector may not contact you at a time [or place] that is inconvenient for you, so if you advise the collector that he or she is not allowed to call at a certain time and the collector ignores your request, the conduct is considered a violation of the statute too.

Can a debt collector leave a message on my answering machine or voicemail?
The answer to this question is yes, BUT the collector must be very careful here.  If a debt collector contacts you and leaves a message then the collector must disclose his or her identity and disclose that the purpose of the call is to collect a debt.   However, if the message is heard by a third party (friend or family member that is not a spouse) then the collector has violated the statute and may be held accountable for the conduct.

How often may a collector contact me? 
Section 1692d(5)
of the FDCPA states that a debt collect may not “engag[e] any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse or harass.”  While the statute does not specifically state how much is too much, a few times a week is likely considered a reasonable amount of contact while a few times a day is likely considered to cross the line and violate the law.

Can a collector continue to contact me if I don’t owe the debt?
If you notify the collector in writing that you do not owe the debt and you request that the collector cease all communication with you, then the collector cannot continue to contact you until it provides you with proof that it believes the debt to be yours.

Can a collector contact me at my place of employment?
As stated above, the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from contacting debtors at inconvenient or unusual places. The law goes on to specifically state that a collector cannot call a consumer at their place of employment if the collector has some notice that the consumer cannot accept those calls at work.   Thus, make sure to communicate this with the collector and once he or she is put on notice the calls to your job must stop or the collector has violated the law.

Can a collector garnish my wages?
The simple answer to this question is yes, but only after he or she has successfully sued you, obtained a judgment against you, and served your employer with a court order granting the garnishment.  In other words, a collector cannot garnish your wages if you do not make payment on the debt without first serving you with a lawsuit and then winning the case against you.

Can I go to jail for not paying my debts?
Quite simply, NO.  You cannot be put in jail for owing a consumer debt and a debt collector who threatens you with jail time is violating the FDCPA.   Some consumers have come to us stating that they were, in fact, jailed because of the debt. This is not true.  If ever a person finds themselves being taken in because of a debt, I assure you that they are not being taken in because they owe money.  Chances are that the consumer was served an order by a court to appear to testify regarding what assets they may have to pay off a debt.  But the consumer ignored the notice and refused to go to court despite the judge specifically requesting them to appear.  If someone ignores the judge and don’t show up when requested, then the judge may hold them in contempt of court, and issue a bench warrant to have the person brought in.  That is, the person is being brought in for ignoring the judge, not because the debt is owed.

If you are having problems with debt collection or have any questions regarding your involvement with a debt collector contact SmithMarco P.C. for a free case review.