When someone is facing debt collection, it is important that person knows his or her rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that protects consumers against unfair collection practices, including:
- Calling you repeatedly to annoy or harass you;
- Trying to collect more than you owe;
- Failing to send a written notice of the debt;
- Threatening violence, using profanity or offensive language;
- Threatening dire consequences (i.e. – lawsuits, criminal prosecution, wage garnishment, jail time, permanently ruining your credit);
- Calling you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.;
- Revealing debt to third parties (i.e. – family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc.);
- Contacting you at your work, after you have requested them to stop;
- Failing to verify disputed debts;
- Ignoring cease communication requests.
Debt Collector Tactics
Debt collectors will use several different methods to first locate the person owing on the debt. They will often resort to a person’s credit application first to find him or her, but in the age of social media and technology, debt collectors are trained in locating people easily through one of these channels. Some of the more aggressive debt collectors will even reach out to friends, relatives or past employers of the person owing the debt to locate him or her. Once a debt collector finds a viable way to reach someone, however, all bets are off. They will contact that person until the debt is paid. Since many times, debt collectors are not paid until they collect on the debt, they can be quite persistent to get their own paycheck.
Always Validate the Debt and the Debt Collector
Consumers always have the right to request validity of the agency collecting on the debt, as well as the debt itself. When receiving a collection call, first demand verification that the agency is legitimate. Unfortunately, scammers are out there who seek to take advantage of someone in a difficult circumstance. Ask for the company’s name, as well as the caller’s name, the company’s address, and even their professional license number. Be sure to look up the company online to see if they are, in fact, legitimate. If it appears that the company contacting the consumer is a scam, report them as soon as possible.
Every consumer has the right to first verify the debt owed by requesting confirmation of it in writing. The consumer should request a written validation notice, a document that all collection agencies are required by law to send to the consumer within five days of the request. This written notice must include the name of the original creditor, the amount owed, and information about how to dispute the debt. Once the consumer receives this information, the consumer should verify it with his or her own records to make sure the amount is correct. If the amount is incorrect, the consumer should follow the dispute process to challenge the debt. If the consumer does not owe the debt at all, he or she can also do this via the process listed in the notice. After receiving the validation letter, the consumer has 30 days to respond to why the claim is incorrect.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) gives every consumer protections on what exactly debt collectors can say to him or her or can do while collecting on a debt. Specifically, the FDCPA prevents debt collectors from using abusive or threatening tactics when contacting consumers. These tactics include abusive or obscene languages, threatening violence, contacting the person to the point that it becomes harassment, and intentionally disclosing the person’s name and debt owed. The debt collector also cannot contact the person before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. They are also restricted from using robocalls to the person’s cell phone to collect on the debt. The collector also cannot refuse to disclose their company’s name or use false or misleading techniques when communicating with the consumer.
If the consumer feels that he or she is being harassed or that the collector is violating the FDCPA, a complaint can be filed with the Florida State Attorney General’s Office or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Be Aware of Scammers
Debt collection scams are becoming a more commonplace these days as companies contact consumers claiming to be collecting on a debt. Certain techniques raise a red flag that the person is dealing with a scam, and these include:
- The debt collector threatening to have the consumer arrested;
- The collector requesting that payment on the debt be made through a wire transfer or a prepaid debit card;
- The debt collector becoming angry or threatening the longer the conversation goes on; or
- The person on the phone refusing to provide any validating information on the debt or their company.
Some of the more recent scams involve companies saying they represent auto loan companies, saying they are calling on the vehicle’s warranty or offering to reduce the consumer’s monthly car payments in order to avoid repossession.
It pays to be cautious with this communication. Always request validation of the debt, and if the caller refuses, question why that is the case when they are required by law to comply. Report any scams as soon as they occur, providing as much information as the consumer can collect during the brief phone call.
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If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.