Debt collection harassment is an all too common problem in America, but American citizens can find protection under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Debt collection harassment is illegal in the United States, and Americans need to know their rights when debt collectors start calling. The debtor doesn't have to put up with abusive collection agencies calling them everyday. FDCPA specifies what debt collection agencies can and cannot do to collect. They cannot call before eight in the morning or nine at night unless the customer agrees to it. If the customer tells the collection agency not to call them at work, because they are not allowed to receive calls, they must comply.
The following debts are covered by FDCPA:
- Family and household debts
- Personal credit card account
- Auto loan
- Medical bills
Bureau of Consumer Protection
The purpose of the Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) is to protect consumers against unfair, deceptive, or fraudulent practices. BCP does this by conducting investigations, suing companies and people who violate the law, developing rules to protect consumers, and educating consumers and businesses about their rights. They also collect complaints about consumer fraud and identity theft and makes it available to law enforcement agencies across the U.S.
Stop the Calls
If the debt collection agency continues to call, customers may put a stop to it. Write a letter asking them to stop. Keep a copy of the letter and send the original by certified mail, and pay for a return receipt. The return receipt proves that the debt collector did receive it. After receiving the letter, the debt collector may only call to confirm they will no longer be calling, or to let the customer know that they or the creditor intend to take an action like filing a lawsuit. Debt collection agencies sometimes falsely threaten a law suit so take this with a grain of salt if the debt isn't exorbitant.
The debt collector may contact an attorney to discuss the debt. They may also contact third parties to obtain the customer's address, phone number and where they work. However, they may not discuss the debt with third parties.
After contacting the customer the first time, the debt collector must send a written validation notice informing them of how much they owe. This must be sent within five days after that first contact. The notice tells the name of the creditor and what to do if they think they don't owe the money.
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Abusive Debt Collectors
Many abusive debt collectors prey on the unfortunate debtor. Know your legal rights and avoid a lot of stress. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans are protected under the FDCPA from:
- Threats of violence
- Threats to publish your name
- Obscene or profane language
- Use of the phone to annoy customers
These represent but a few of the abusive practices that many debt collectors will employ to get a debtor to pay.
If someone is a victim of an abusive debt collector, report them to the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorney General's office. According to the FTC, "Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the FDCPA. Your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights under your state’s law."
If you find yourself at the hands of abusive debt collectors don't panic, but take immediate action to stop the harassment. Go to the FTC online and file a complaint.
|Consumer Protection Law in a Nutshell (In a Nutshell (West Publishing))|
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