You pride yourself on paying your bills on time. It’s how you were brought up.
But like a lot of people these days, you found yourself living paycheck to paycheck, and some bills became a lot harder to pay. Now you owe money to a collection agency, and their calls and letters just never seem to end.
However, there’s a line between a company making legitimate attempts to recoup what they’re owed and debt collector abuse. You might owe money, but you still have rights. If you think a collection agency has strayed into the latter category, there are things you can do to protect yourself.
Debt Collector Harassment
Debt collection is a multi-billion dollar industry that affects over 70 million consumers in the United States. A recent report released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that over one-in-four consumers contacted by debt collectors felt threatened.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that offers protections to consumers for debts that have been sent to collection agencies. Personal obligations, such as credit cards, medical bills, utility bills, or loans, are covered under the FDCPA. When the law has been violated, the consumer may take legal action against the collector.
Common violations of the FDCPA include:
- Misrepresentation of the debt to the consumer.
- Threats of legal action when none is intended.
- Aggressive, harassing methods are used by the collector.
- Collection contact after a consumer has filed for bankruptcy.
- Failure to report a disputed debt accurately to the credit bureaus.
The Collection Process
Consumers seek credit for a variety of purposes --personal or auto loans, store credit cards, payment of medical or utility bills -- the company that provides the credit -- the bank, credit union, lender, doctor's office or utility -- is call the creditor. When the borrower falls behind on payments to the creditor, attempts are made to collect on the defaulted account. If a creditor’s internal collection efforts have been unsuccessful, the creditor may choose to hire a third party collector – a collection agency or collection law firm - to continue collection.
These delinquent accounts may be assigned to a collector for a specific period of time, or they could be sold to a collector. Regardless, once the debt is in the hands of a third party collector, the FDCPA must be followed. If the collector uses tactics which violate the FDCPA, the consumer may file a lawsuit against the collector. Lawsuits pursued under the FDCPA provide for the debt collector to pay the consumer’s legal fees – whether the debt is owed or not.
Here are three situations in which you might have a case for debt collector harassment:
- They don’t offer proof of your debt
Under the FDCPA, collection agencies have to give consumers the name of the original creditor who is claiming the debt, how much they’re owed, and show proof of how the amount claimed was calculated. If a collection agency won’t show proof that you owe a debt, you may be able to take them to court.
- They flat out lie to you
If a debt collector lies while trying to recover what you owe, they’re violating the FDCPA. Have they told you that you owe more than you actually do? Claimed to be a lawyer when they aren’t? Threatened to sue when they have no grounds to do so? If so, you may have a case for a debt collector harassment lawsuit.
- Their phone calls go too far
The FDCPA forbids debt collectors from using harassing tactics to collect debts. This includes making threats, using obscene language, speaking with someone else about your debt, or repeated phone calls that are intended to harass or abuse.
Remember that you can get debt collectors to stop calling altogether. If you notify the collector in writing by sending a Cease & Desist letter, the calls are to stop. They can only get in touch with you again to say that there will be no further contact from that collection agency.
If you tell a debt collector that you have hired an attorney, they’re required to contact your lawyer instead of you or risk violating the FDCPA.
Flitter Milz can help.
Unexpected life events -- job loss, illness, divorce -- can place anyone in a vulnerable position. Finances become tight, payments are missed and collectors begin to call or send letters. Sometimes, family members, co-workers or neighbors may be contacted. Shame and embarrassment, coupled with the financial pressure, make life unbearable. That's where Flitter Milz steps in.
Our debt collection attorneys understand the FDCPA. They know how to stop abusive collection tactics. They will fight for the consumer in court to seek the justice that is deserved.
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