Under the Fair Debt Credit Protection Act (“FDCPA”), the below activities are violations. It is a FDCPA violation to make misleading or false representation through a phone call, email, voice mail or letter. Misleading information or FDCPA violations can include.
- Threatening to sue or pursue any type of legal action, damage your credit rating, impose any type of property repossession, or wage garnishment which the collection agency does not intend to pursue is a FDCPA violation of consumer’s right.
- Mislead the consumer with the amount or the status of the debt.
- Contacting someone other than the actual debt holder or cosigner for debt collection. This can include: neighbors, friends, employer or relatives.
- Calling on multiple occasions at inappropriate times. The FDCPA defines inappropriate times as any contact after 9:00 PM or before 8:00 AM.
- If the collection agency calls an individual at work they may not notify an employer of the reason for the call before being asked.
- Making misleading statements to make an individual believe the collection agency is affiliated with the state of federal government and the debt collection documents are official government documents such as a subpoena or court order to pay.
- Making any type of inappropriate racial slur, insult or obscene comment in letters, calls or emails.
- Making the individual think they have committed some type of crime by failing to pay their debt obligations.
- Collecting information under false pretentions such as conducting “surveys”.
- Suing you in a court unusually far from your home.
- Charging interest or fees not allowed under state laws or outlined in contracts.
- Calling an individual at inconvenient locations such as work when an individual has asked the debt collection agency not to call them in either written or verbal form.
- Making threats to violently harm an individual if they fail to pay their debts.
- Publishing the names of the people who fail to pay their debts (other than by giving the information to a credit reporting agency).
- Using a false company name.
- Providing incorrect information about an individual to someone else.
- Depositing a post dated check early in efforts to get the check to bounce.
- Contacting an individual via postcard.
A “debt collector” is someone who regularly tries to collect debts owed to others. A debt collector may contact you if you are behind in your payments to a creditor on a personal, family or household debt, or if an error has been made in your account.
Make no mistake, a debt collector may contact you in person, or by mail, email, telephone, fax (and even telegram, for those of you in the old west).
A debt collector is required to send you a written notice within five days after you are first contacted, telling you the amount of money you owe. The notice must also specify the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money and what action you should take if you believe you do not owe the money.
Question: What can I do to make them leave me alone?
Answer: Two things. Settle the debt, or write them a letter telling them to stop.
Once the debt collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact, or to notify you if the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action.
If you do not believe you owe the debt, you may write to the collection agency within 30 days after you are first contacted, saying you don’t owe the money. The agency may not contact you after that unless you are sent proof of the debt, such as a copy of the bill.
In addition, debt collectors are required to accurately disclose their identities to the person at the called number, though in practice you are just as likely to hear a dial tone if you ask for the name of the actual human being calling you.
A debt collector may not use false statements, such as falsely implying that they are attorneys, that you have committed a crime, or that they operate or work for a credit bureau or misrepresenting the amount of your debt, the involvement of an attorney in collecting a debt, or indicating that papers sent to you are legal forms when they are not.
There are obvious advantages to writing a cease and desist, but a less obvious one is that violations of the FDCPA can be a basis for a lawsuit, or used as a setoff to lessen the amount you might owe to a creditor such as a credit card company or bank threatening foreclosure. In other words, when they sue you, you can tell the court that they have been harassing you. If the judge finds that you are right, he or she should deduct the damages from your debt. For credit card companies, this could be a large fraction (or even all) the debt, and for mortgage foreclosure cases, it provides a basis to ask for a jury trial (more on that later), and gives the bank a lot to think about if they haven’t been willing to discuss settlement.