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Laws Every Consumer Needs To Know About Debt Collectors

Here at The Frugal Law Student I constantly encourage people to avoid credit card debt as much as possible. Because credit card debt is unsecured, it can create the biggest problems for consumers.

If you fall behind on your payments, creditors will often hire debt collectors in order to get their money back from you. While the majority of debt collectors are civil when collecting your debt, many are abusive and coercive. Thankfully, we have the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to protect consumers from these debt collecting bullies. But if you want to protect yourself with this law, you’re going to need to know the law.

Disclaimer: As of this writing, I am not a licensed attorney. I’m still in law school. I’ve taken this information the Federal Trade Commission’s website. This article is for general education only. If you need legal advice, consult a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction.

  • You can stop a debt collector from contacting you. Debt collectors can be a persistent bunch because their pay depends on whether they get money from you. However, many overstep the bounds of being persistent to being stalker-like. If this becomes a problem, write the debt collector a letter telling them to stop. Make sure to keep the copy of the letter for yourself. You should also ask for a confirmation when you mail the letter so you can have proof that the debt collector received the letter. Once the collector gets the letter, they can no longer contact you. However, this doesn’t mean your debt is gone. If you still don’t pay, a creditor can take you to court and sue.
  • If you have an attorney, a debt collector MUST contact your attorney. If you’re behind on your debt payment, chances are you can’t afford an attorney. But if for some reason you can afford an attorney, make sure to direct debt collectors to them.
  • Debt collectors cannot use threats of violence or harm in order to collect. If a debt collector happens to do this, make sure to record the day and time of the call.
  • Debt collectors cannot publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay debts.
  • Debt collectors cannot use obscene or profane language. If a collector does, make note of the date and time of the call.
  • Debt collectors cannot repeatedly use the telephone to annoy you. Again, record the date and time of every call made to you by a collector.
  • Debt collectors cannot call you before 8AM or after 9PM.
  • Debt collectors may not state that you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt.
  • Debt collectors may not state that they will seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages, unless the collection agency or creditor intends to do so, and it is legal to do so.
  • Debt collectors may not state that you will be sued if you don’t pay your debts.

These are a few of the regulations that debt collectors must follow under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. See this link for a more detailed list.

What if you think a debt collector has violated the law?

If you think a debt collector has violated the law, you can sue them in a state or federal court within one year the date the law was violated. If you have a stong case, you can be rewarded damages plus up to $1,000. In order to make your case, you’ll need evidence. That’s why it’s so important to keep a record of all your interactions with debt collectors.

You should also report any problems with debt collectors to your state Attorney General’s office of the Federal Trade Commission. These guys will bring criminal charges against the crooked debt collector and punish accordingly.

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