Have you ever found yourself in this place?
No one wants to be in a position where they can’t make all their payments. But unfortunately sometimes that’s just where we find ourselves. Perhaps it was because of unwise decisions that we over extended ourselves. Perhaps illness or job loss has left us with significantly less income. In any case, regardless of our desires, we aren’t able to pay everything and pretty soon the debt collectors are calling.
Calls from debt collectors can be embarrassing and stressful. You do owe the debt though and you do need to talk to them. However, you do not need to allow them to abuse you
Federal Fair Debt Collections Act
The Federal Fair Debt Collections Act lays out very specific rules regarding what a debt collector can do or say and what they can not. While there are many honest debt collectors that provide a needed service, there are also many that break these laws on a daily basis. It is important for you to know your rights when dealing with a collector.
Calling at all hours of the day
Debt collectors are only permitted to call you between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm in your time zone.
Calling you at work
Debt collectors are permitted to call you at work. However you have the option of telling them orally or in writing that you are not permitted to take personal calls at work. If you do so it is against federal law for them to continue to contact you there.
Sharing details of your debt with others
A debt collector is permitted to call your family members or neighbors. They are only permitted to do so though to find your home phone number, address, or place of work. They are forbidden to discuss any details of your debts. In fact they are not even permitted to identify themselves as debt collectors.
Failing to verify the debt
If you are unsure if you owe the debt, you can request written verification of the debt. Once you have made this request, collectors may not contact you until after they have provided this information.
Making threatening or harassing statements
Debt collectors may not threaten you with physical harm. They are not permitted to use obscene language. They may not call you repeatedly the same day as a means of harassment.
Contact you by post card
Debt collectors may not use post cards in contacting you or any other method that would reveal to someone handling your mail that you are being contacted by a debt collector.
Make up fees and interest
Debt collectors are not allowed to add additional fees, interests, or other charges that were not defined by the original debt agreement.
Make false statements
- Debt collectors may not claim they are government or law enforcement officials. Nor may they threaten that you will be arrested for not paying your bills.
- They can’t misrepresent the amount you owe or the nature of any documents that they send you.
- They cannot threaten legal action if they do not intend to carry through with those threats. Nor can they threaten things like garnishment of wages if they do not intend to take the legal steps required to make that happen.
- They cannot threaten to seize other property owned by you unless they are permitted to do so by state law and actually intend to carry through with their threat.
- They cannot suggest they will garnish Social Security Income, SSI, Veterans benefits, Service members pay, and many other government payments. These payments cannot be garnished.
Can I request that I no longer be contacted?
If you wish to cease being contacted at all you have the right to do so. You may send the debt collector written notice via certified mail, return receipt requested asking that they no longer contact you. Once the collector receives your letter they are legally forbidden to continue to contact you.
While this may be tempting, particularly if you are emotionally worn down from the calls, generally speaking, this is not a good idea except in cases of severe abuse.
The problem is taking this action greatly increases the chances that you will be sued.
A better solution if you are receiving frequent calls is to simply get caller id. Talk to the collectors once a week or so and ignore the other calls.
What can you do if you feel a debt collector is breaking these laws?
If you feel a debt collector has violated the Federal Fair Debt Collections Act, you may report them to the FTC or to your state attorney general. You also have the right to sue if you feel you have proof that violations have occurred. If you can prove the violations you may be awarded damages. Be aware though that this does not cause a valid debt to be canceled.
Taking responsibility for your debt doesn’t mean accepting abuse
IF you owe the debt and have the money you need to pay it. If you don’t have the money right now to pay it, then you do need to do the best you can to work with your creditors. Be honest. Communicate. Act with integrity.
At the same time you do not need to submit to abuse. Know your rights. You can read the entire Fair Debt Collections Act at: http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fdcpa/fdcpact.shtm
There are many debt collectors that do a good job, but be aware that there are many that lack integrity and violate these laws routinely. If you find yourself dealing with an unscrupulous collector, don’t allow their abuse to take control of your life.