Thursday, September 23, 2010

Stopping Debt Collection Calls

A federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act limits the things debt collectors can say and do. A blog like this can't cover every situation that might come up, and we do not provide specific legal advice. But there reportedly are bad things happening in the world of debt collection. So here's an overview of some important aspects of the law.

If a debt collector calls and you want the calls to stop, write a letter to the collector telling him or her to stop calling, and mail it (preferably certified mail, return receipt requested so you have proof the collector received the letter). After that, the collector is required to stop calling you, except to state that he or she will stop calling you (that sounds weird, but the law allows it) or to say he or she will take legal action against you (it has to be a truthful threat to take action; a false threat is illegal). Debt collectors also have to stop calling you if you hire an attorney.

There are other limitations on debt collector calls. They can't call before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. (unless you agree to such calls; don't agree unless it's absolutely essential). They can't call you at work if they are told you're not allowed to take such calls at work. They have to stop calling you if you send them a letter disputing your obligation to pay a debt, or a letter asking for verification of the debt (i.e., proof of the debt). But they can start calling again after sending you written verification of the debt. If you want to stop all calls, send the letter discussed in the preceding paragraph telling the collector to stop calling. Or hire an attorney.

Debt collectors can contact third persons, like your family, neighbors and friends, to ask about your address, phone number and place of employment. The collector cannot discuss your debt with them. They don't have to say anything to the collector. Generally, the collector cannot call them more than once. If you hire an attorney, the collector is not allowed to contact your family, neighbors, friends and other third parties. The collector has to deal exclusively with your attorney.

Debt collectors cannot harass you or other people they call. They cannot make false statements or false threats to take legal action. They cannot threaten to have you arrested if you don't pay the debt.

If you think a debt collector has acted illegally, you can sue the collector. Seriously consider hiring an attorney if you want to sue. If you win, you're entitled to $1,000 and your attorneys fees and court costs. You can collect any damages you suffered as a result of illegal collector conduct, such as lost wages and medical bills. You can also complain to the government. Your state's attorney general's office, and the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov) are appropriate places to send complaints.

Remember that stopping a debt collector's calls does not affect whatever obligation you may have to pay the debt. You might still be sued and have your bank account and wages garnished. Misconduct by the debt collector also doesn't affect whatever your responsibility for the debt may be. If you legally owe the debt, even a successful lawsuit on your part against the collector does not change your obligations as a debtor.

1 comment:

david watson said...

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