Dealing with debt collectors can be stressful. Their job is to get the consumer to pay on a debt at any means necessary, which can often mean through coercion, harassment, and fear. Many debt collectors have been known to use aggressive or illegal tactics to collect on a debt, leaving many consumers to feel like they have no choice but to make payment to get them to go away. However, federal law offers certain protections when it comes to debt collectors. It is important that consumers understand what these protections are so that they are aware of what rights they do have when dealing with debt collectors.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), nearly one in every four people have a debt in collections. Illegal debt collection practice is a common complaint made to the CFPB. These legal protections are contained within the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA limits when and how debt collectors can contact consumers, as well as what they can say. Under the FDCPA, debt collectors cannot call a consumer before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. Additionally, they are not allowed to talk to any person, other than the consumer and his or her spouse, about the debt itself. The only information they can obtain from a third-party is how to locate the consumer.
Debt collectors are also prevented under the FDCPA from intentionally harassing or annoying the consumer with repeated call after call. They are prohibited from using abusive or threatening language, including threatening with harm or jail time.
The consumer should also not assume that the information provided by the debt collector is true. According to a recent report submitted to Congress by the CFPB, 49 percent of all complaints made against debt collectors in 2020 involved a debt the person did not owe, which is why it is important to always request verification of the debt first. If the information provided by the collector is incorrect, the consumer has the right to dispute the debt in writing.
Additionally, under the FDCPA, the debt collector can only collect what is owed under the contract of the original debt. It is illegal for the debt collector to collect interest or charge any additional expense to the principal unless it was authorized by the original contract.
If a debt collector violates any of the provisions of the FDCPA, the consumer has the right to ask for a cease and desist, meaning he or she can tell the debt collector in writing to cease communications per the FDPCA. If, at that point, the debt collector continues to harass the consumer, he or she has remedies available to him or her under the provisions of the FDCPA, including paying for damages and the consumer’s attorney fees.
The reality is that when it comes to debt, sometimes all it takes is one unforeseen event like a job loss or an illness, for things to quickly spiral out of control. Being constantly bombarded with collection calls can increase stress. Knowing your legal rights and the federal protections when it comes to creditor harassment can help.
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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.