What Can Debt Collectors Legally Do to Collect?

what can debt collectors legally do to collect

If you owe money to a creditor or if you get behind on your bills, you may receive debt collection calls and may receive a debt collection notice in the mail. There are rules that debt collectors must follow when contacting you to collect.

Governing Laws

There are federal laws, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), that govern what debt collectors can and cannot do in order to collect debts owed, and each individual state also has its own laws that govern debt collection practices in that state. These laws prohibit debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices to collect from you. 

Under the FDCPA, a debt collector is someone who regularly collects debts owed to others. This includes collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts on a regular basis, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them. However, some states, including California, New York, Florida, Colorado, Connecticut and Massachusetts, consider anyone who attempts to collect monies owed a debt collection company, and these rules would apply to them as well.

Debt collectors MUST:

- Disclose that they are debt collectors;
- Send you a written validation of debt within five days of contacting you;
- Speak only with your attorney if you have hired one to represent you on the debt; and
- Stop contacting you if they receive a written letter from you within 30 days of your receipt of the validation notice disputing the debt.

Debt collectors may:

- Resume contact with you if they provide you with written proof that you owe the debt;
- Contact you by phone, letter, email or text message to collect a debt;
- Contact third parties, but only to obtain your address, home telephone number and place of employment, not to discuss your debt;
- Give your information and information about the debt to credit reporting companies; and
- Garnish your bank account or wages if a judgment has already been obtained against you on the debt.

Debt collectors may NOT:

- Threaten violence or harm;
- Threaten you with arrest if you do not pay;
- Threaten to garnish your wages, seize or sell your property unless they are permitted by law to do so and intend to do so;
- Publish your name as someone who refuses to pay their debts;
- Use obscene language;
- Falsely claim that you have committed a crime;
- Misrepresent the amount you owe;
- Try to collect interest, fees, or other charges in addition to the debt you owe unless your contract specified the charge or state law permits it;
- Pretend to be someone else including an attorney, a government agency or law enforcement official;
- Harass you by telephone by repeatedly calling to annoy you;
- Contact you early in the morning or late at night without your consent;
- Contact you at work if they have been told either verbally or in writing not to do so;
- Contact third parties repeatedly for information about you;
- Discuss your debt with third parties (anyone other than you, your spouse, or your attorney); and
- Contact you by postcard.

Steps to Take

When someone is trying to collect a debt from you, keep copies of any correspondence you send or receive related to any debts. Maintain voice mail messages you receive, and keep track of the dates and times of any telephone calls, as well as which debt collector contacted you, how much they said that you owed, and to whom, along with any other relevant notes about the conversation.

If you believe that a debt collector has violated the law, you have the right to sue them in state or federal court, and you may recover for any damages you can prove you suffered as a result of illegal collections practices. You may even be able to recover some money even if you cannot prove actual damages, and you may be entitled to recover for your attorney’s fees and court costs, regardless of the debt.

If you do not want to file a lawsuit, you can report problems with debt collectors to your state Attorney General’s office, the Federal Trade Commission (who is responsible for enforcing the FDCPA), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

If you are trying to collect a debt or someone is trying to collect a debt from you, ensure that the steps being taken regarding the debt are appropriate by posting a summary of your legal issue on Legal Services Link and letting the perfect debtor and creditor lawyer come to you!

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Posted - 03/10/2017