If you have been the victim of aggressive debt collection practices from one or more creditors, you should know that the law protects you. Debt collection agencies and debt collection lawyers are subject to strict rules regarding their collection practices, yet many of these creditors and debt collectors either ignore the laws or don’t do a good job complying with the laws. With creditors calling your friends, family, and neighbors at all hours of the day and night, subjecting you to harassing phone calls, and disclosing your debts will third parties, they can make you feel powerless. However, you need to remember that you do have rights. Even if the debt you owe is legitimate, there are specific laws that govern how creditors and debt collectors may contact you, when they may contact you, who they may contact, and under what circumstances they may do so. Most of these regulations fall under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or the FDCPA, which is overseen by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). But many States also have additional debt collection laws that supplement or reinforce the FDCPA.
In order to protect yourself against aggressive creditors you must first understand what your rights are, and how the laws protect you. Once armed with this knowledge, you can confront these abusive creditors and ease your mind. If the abuse keeps happening, you can always turn to the Alexander Law Firm. Our firm’s mission is assisting people like you who have been subject to repeated abuse from aggressive creditors. Adam S. Alexander is a consumer protection attorney with 19 years of experience protecting consumers in the State of Michigan. Creditors who ignore the law can face stiff statutory penalties and damages, as well as having to pay your attorney fees and related costs.
The following is a partial list of the more common violations of the FDCPA, which may entitle you to $1,000 in statutory damages as well as potential emotional distress damages, along with attorney fees and court costs.
Debt collectors may not repeatedly call you, nonstop throughout the day. There is no bright line rule as to exactly how many times per day or week is permissible. However, multiple calls every day for multiple days has been found to be illegal. They may only contact you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. They may not degrade you, nor use obscene or abusive language. They may not contact you at work if they know you cannot take calls at your place of employment, They are also prevented from contacting third parties, (family, friends, neighbors), other than a one-time contact to get “location information” and they may not disclose they are a debt collector.
Debt collectors may not pretend to be an attorney, nor an agent of the law. They may not threaten legal action if they do not intend to take that action. They may only inform you of legal proceedings that have already been filed. They may not lie about your alleged debt or the balance owed. They cannot claim papers sent to you are legal paperwork if it is not actual legal paperwork. They cannot claim to represent or work for any government agencies or any credit bureau.
One of the most common violations is very simple: Debt collectors who call you on the phone must identify themselves. In the hallmark case of FOTI v. NCO FINANCIAL SYSTEMS, INC., the court determined that a debt collector may be in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by leaving a message on your voice mail that doesn’t identify them as a debt collector. So, initially, you must remember to keep your voice mails! The debt collector must say the magic words “this call is from a debt collector, and I am calling to collect a debt” or very similar language. Not saying this is a probable violation.
There are many other violations contained in the FDCPA, and if you have any doubts you should contact the Alexander Law Firm or another consumer protection attorney in your area as soon as possible. Having debt is not fun, but as a consumer you must understand how to protect your rights and recognize when a debt collector has gone too far.