Discussing debt is a huge source of stress for almost every individual. Using credit cards or store charges, financing an automobile, taking out a personal loan and or a home mortgage makes you a debtor and entitles you to the protection of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the “FDPCA”). The
FDPCA governs the conduct of collection agencies and ensures that debtors are treated fairly during collection efforts.
For the FDCPA to apply, the debt must be a consumer debt. This means personal, family and household debts are covered, but business debts are not included. Collection agencies may contact a debtor by phone, letter, e-mail, and even in person. The collector cannot contact you at an inconvenient time or
place. A consumer can identify to the collector what times or places are considered inconvenient to them. However, the FDCPA deems anytime before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. to be inconvenient. A collector may even contact you at work to attempt to collect a debt unless the collector is informed that you
are prohibited from receiving those calls during your employment hours.
As a debtor you are afforded the right to request the collection agency cease all
contact with you. This is commonly referred to as a “Cease and Desist” letter. In addition, you can write a
letter to the collector simply informing them that you refuse to pay this debt. Upon receipt of one of these letters the collector must cease all contact with you except to inform you that it will no longer contact you or that it plans to take further action against you, i.e. file suit in a court of law.
In an effort to locate the debtor, a collection agency may contact a third party to find out location information, such as where you live, your phone number and/or place of employment. A collector may not contact a third party on more than one occasion and may not disclose to the third party the nature of its call or that the debtor owes any money.
After the initial verbal communication with a debtor, the collector must send a collection letter (“dunning letter”) within five days of that first verbal contact. In that letter, the collector must include the name of the
creditor, the amount of the debt owed, a statement that this communication is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose. Lastly, the letter must include what is referred to as “validation notice”. “Validation notice” is a statement notifying the debtor that he or she has the
right to dispute the debt in writing within 30 days of receipt of the collection letter and may request validation of the debt. Upon receipt of the request for validation, the collector must cease all collection activities until it provides the requested proof of debt, such a copy of the services rendered, a credit card contract, etc.
The FDCPA protects you from harassment by a collector. Harassment includes but is not limited to, use of threats or violence, use of obscene or profane language, or continuous phone calls. Collection agencies may also not make false or misleading statements, such as inferring you have committed a crime, misrepresenting the amount of the debt you owe, threatening to file suit when there is no such intention, or
threatening arrest, garnishment or imprisonment. Collection agencies may also not engage in unfair practices when attempting to collect a debt including but not limited to collecting an amount greater than you owe, or solicit a post-dated check and deposit it before the date on the check.
If you feel your rights have been violated by a collector, you have a right to file suit under the FDCPA within one year from the date the violation occurred. If you are successful, you may be entitled to damages plus an additional amount up to $1,000. Furthermore, both court costs and attorney’s fees may be covered under the statute.
When you’re being pursued by debt collectors, you have rights, and we’re here to help. SmithMarco, P.C. has been protectingconsumer rights since 2005. If you feel that you’re rights have been violated, please contact us for a free case review.