In these tough economic times it has become common practice for
creditors to turn unpaid bills over to debt collection agencies.
These agencies begin calling and sending letters to collect the
amount owed; often the calls are frequent, frightening and
threatening. It is bad enough to know that you have outstanding
bills, but the menacing nature of a bill collector’s calls can
leave you feeling frustrated and helpless.
Unfortunately if you are in this situation, where you are late on
paying your bills, you are not alone, and you do have rights. The
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a statute that
outlaws numerous unfair debt collection practices and provides a
framework for verifying the debt and ending calls.
Everything from who they can call, to when they can call, and
what they say is governed by this law. Collectors may call your
family or your neighbors in order to determine your location but
they can only call a person once and cannot mention that you owe a
debt. If the collector is given any notice that you are not to
receive calls at work, then they absolutely may not call you there.
In fact, a collector is prohibited from calling at any time or
place after they learn it is an inconvenient time or place for you.
Also, calls made before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. are strictly
Harassment and abuse is unlawful as well. Many times collectors
take rather aggressive tones in their calls to collect debts.
Overly abusive conduct, including the use of obscene language,
yelling, or calling on multiple occasions for the purpose of
harassment and abuse, is not allowed under the FDCPA.
Finally, a collector cannot make false or misleading statements to
you, or threaten to take action that they cannot legally take or
don’t intend to take in an effort to collect the debt.
When a collector begins the collection process, they must send
you a letter that identifies the original creditor, the balance
owed, and explains your right to dispute the validity of the debt.
If they receive a written dispute within 30 days, they will provide
you validation of the debt – proof that you owe it and that the
amount is correct. If the collector cannot respond to your written
dispute with ample validation, then they must discontinue their
collection of the account until such time as they can.
If you notify the collector at any time in writing to “cease and
desist” all communications, or that you refuse to pay the bill then
they must stop calling you. A popular collection tactic is to
report the collection on one’s credit report thereby making it
difficult to obtain any other credit while this bill remains
unpaid. A collector may not report anything to a credit reporting
agency that is false; if you dispute the debt or any portion of it,
then the collector must report the fact that you have registered a
Whether or not you have used any of the protections above, if you
feel your rights have been violated there is help. Our firm handles
FDCPA violation cases and we offer a free attorney consultation.
The FDCPA provides that a consumer that experiences a violation is
entitled to any actual damage suffered as well as a statutory
penalty of up to $1000. In addition, the law provides that if a
consumer is successful in bringing a claim under this law,
attorneys’ fees and costs are covered. If you prevail against a
debt collector, the collector will leave you alone, you can obtain
compensation, and you won’t have to worry about the cost of an