Do you receive harassing phone calls day and night interrupting the time you spend with your family, while you’re at work, or even when you’re trying to sleep? If you’re struggling with debt and suddenly find yourself fielding calls from a collection agency, know that you’re not helpless.
Continue reading to learn more about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and how it can protect you against debt collector harassment.
What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?
Congress enacted the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA 15 USC 1692 et seq.) in 1978. The act prohibits third-party collection agencies from harassing, threatening, or inappropriately contacting someone who owes money. The law also restricts how debt collectors can contact debtors, as well as the time of day and number of times they can contact them.
How Does the FDCPA Work?
The FDCPA does not protect debtors from those who attempt to collect a personal debt. Under the terms of this act, if you owe money to your local hardware store, for example, and the owner calls you to collect, that person is not a debt collector. Only third-party debt collectors—including those on the payroll of debt collection agencies—are covered by the FDCPA. The law covers household debt such as credit card debt, medical bills, student loans, mortgages, and other types of debt.
In House vs Third-Party Debt Collectors
Credit card companies, companies, or banks aren’t necessarily the ones who collect debt. While some debt collectors represent card issuers and lenders, others bought your debt after your original lender stopped trying to collect.
The FDCPA law does not apply to in-house collectors. These are the branches or departments of the company that lent the money. Banks sometimes use these departments to collect debts before turning to outside gathering agencies if they are unable to collect the debt within a certain timeframe.
What Debt Collectors Can Do:
If you owe money to a collection agency but are unable to pay, they can sue you. The court will issue a judgment against you for the amount you owe if they win. Your bank account and wages can then be garnished by the agency. The collector, however, cannot garnish your Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, veterans’ benefits, disability, or other similar federal benefits.
What Debt Collectors Can’t Do:
Federal law also places the following restrictions on debt collectors:
- You cannot be harassed, threatened with violence, threatened with publishing the names of people not paying their bills, or made to answer repeated phone calls.
- Among other things, they can’t falsely claim to be attorneys or government representatives or that you have committed a crime.
- They can’t misrepresent your debt. Unless the conditions were already in place at the time your debt was created or state law allows it, they can’t collect interest, fees, or any other fees on top of what you already owe.
- You can’t be contacted by postcard.
- The company can’t use a false company name, send you anything that mimics an official court or government document, or provide false information about your credit history.
How To Get Help
If you think a debt collector or collection agency has broken the law while trying to collect a debt, you can:
- File a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and your state attorney general.
- Contact a consumer law attorney.
If you’re being harassed by debt collectors and you are wondering what your rights are, contact Briteside Solutions to receive education on your rights in regards to the FDCPA.