5 Things Debt Collectors are Prohibited from Doing
Bad Debt Collectors! Even debt collectors have to play by the rules.
It’s the end of the day – you just finished putting the kids to bed, cleaned the dishes, folded a load of laundry and all you want to do is relax. Then the phone rings…. and rings….. and rings again. You know the number on the caller ID is a collection agency calling about your delinquent credit card bill. All you want is a little peace and quiet, but the debt collectors are constantly harassing you. What are collectors allowed to do? What is off limits? Knowing your rights and the restrictions on credit collections is important to anyone, especially those behind on their bills.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the consumer protection agency that enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from engaging in unfair, abusive or deceptive practices while collecting a debt from you. The FDCPA considers a debt collector someone who regularly collects debts owed to others. This can include collection agencies, companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to enforce them and even attorneys who collect debts on a regular basis. The FDCPA covers personal, family, and household debts. Common examples of these debts include credit card accounts, auto loans, medical bills and mortgages. The FDCPA does not cover debts incurred running a business. Here are five things that debt collectors are prohibited from doing:
1. Collectors Cannot Use Harassing or Abusive Statements: This includes threatening to have you arrested or jailed. Personally, I believe this may be violated often. I have clients come into my office fearful that they need to pay their debts immediately because the Sheriff would be informed of their debt and come to arrest them if they don’t pay. This is absolutely not true, and a clear violation of the FDCPA.
Creditors are also not allowed to threaten to take your social security payments or other protected income. They cannot threaten to cause physical injury to your or your property. They cannot use profane language and finally they are not allowed to threaten to send false information about you to the credit reporting agencies. John Oliver with HBO’s Last Week Tonight recently gave a scathing review of some of the illegal ways debtors try to collect.
2. Time When Debt Collectors can Contact You is Limited: Debt collection companies do not have the right to call and harass you at any time, or at any place, day or night. The Act prohibits contacting debtors at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night. However, if the debtor agrees to be contacted at times outside of the limitations, then the collector is free to contact them. Simple rule – don’t give permission to debt collection companies to contact you at unreasonable times! Also, debt collectors are prohibited from contacting you at work if they are told that you are not allowed to receive calls there.
3. Cannot Use False or Misleading Statements: Collectors cannot misrepresent the character, amount or legal status of a debt. They cannot pretend to work for a credit reporting agency or work for a government agency. Unless they are an attorney or work for one, they cannot claim they do. Finally, they cannot send you fake legal papers to confuse you, or tell you to ignore real legal papers.
4. If you are represented by an attorney, and you make this clear to the debt collection company, they must contact your attorney rather than you. However, if you don’t have an attorney, the debt collection companies can contact 3rd parties, but only for the purpose of finding out your home address, your home phone number and where you work. The collectors are generally not allowed to discuss the type of debt, or amount owed with the third party, can only inquire into basic contact information, and typically are not allowed to contact the 3rd party more than once.
5. Abusive and Unfair Practices Violate the FDCPA: It is a violation of the FDCPA for a debt collector to call a debtor or any other person repeatedly, with the intent to annoy, harass or abuse the debtor or any other person. They cannot contact you without disclosing that they are debt collectors and that they trying to collect a debt. Finally, if you have sent a cease a desist letter, they must stop contacting you, or again they are in violation of the FDCPA.
5. What Can a Debt Collector Say to You?: Debt collectors can try to make you feel guilty about owing money. They can ask you to make a payment agreement. They can also encourage you to borrow money from another source in order to pay them. What they cannot do is threaten to have you arrested or jailed; threaten to take your social security or other protected income; threaten to cause physical injury to you or your property; threaten to send false information about you to the credit reporting agencies or use obscene or threatening language.
Are debt collectors harassing you? Do you have debts that are causing you distress? Contact the Ohio Estate Attorney, David J. Smith, to find out whether your rights have been violated and what can be done to fight for your rights! Call (937) 318-1529 today to schedule a free in-office or telephone consultation.