Being hounded by creditors? Know some basics of the FDCPA
If you are dealing with debt, there is a very good chance that you are being called and sent letters from creditors demanding payment. These communications don’t necessarily happen as soon as you have missed a payment or two, but it can soon seem like every call or letter you receive is from a collections agency.
People in this situation are often very frustrated, stressed out and scared. Collections agents can be very aggressive, unsympathetic, demanding and even rude when they are trying to collect debt, and these tactics can be effective; they can also be unlawful in some cases. If this sounds like a position you are currently in, you should understand a few basic protections that you have when it comes to interactions with creditors.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was put into place to establish fair and lawful means of collecting debt from consumers. Under the terms of the FDCPA, there are clear lines drawn between what can and cannot be done.
- Communications: Collections agents are prohibited from calling or contacting a person at unusual times or inconvenient places, which includes late-night calls or even calls at work in some cases. They are also required to send the consumer a letter informing the person how much is owed, to whom the debt is owed and that he or she has the right to dispute the debt within thirty days.
- Language: Debt collection agents are prohibited threatening consumers with violence or harm. Use of obscene or profane language is also explicitly prohibited by the FDCPA. It is also unlawful to purposefully contact a person with the intent to annoy or harass.
- Legitimacy: It is a violation of the FDCPA to mislead consumers or engage in fraud. This could include lying about how much debt is owed, fabricating potential consequences for not paying or falsifying documentation.
These are only a few of the basic protections included in the FDCPA; there are numerous others that clearly outline what behaviors are prohibited and what must be communicated with consumers. However, many people don’t necessarily have a thorough understanding of these laws and protections. If you are in the position of having to deal with creditors, it can be wise to make notes of the interactions and discuss your situation with an attorney.