On behalf of Kazerouni Law Group, APC posted in Consumer Protection on Friday, March 10, 2017.
There are few people who have never been late on a bill, and some have a little more trouble with their finances. In some cases, debt collectors make mistakes in their records and pursue debt collection with people who don’t even owe the debt.
Debt collection complaints increase
There are several different rules, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), through the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that debt collectors are supposed to follow when they pursue the collection of a debt, but too often they don’t follow these rules. This has led to a high level of complaints about debt collection practices in the United States, according to a recent report. The Federal Trade Commission received more than 850,000 complaints about debt collection in 2016, more than the two next highest complaint types combined.
Knowing and asserting your rights
One of the reasons why so many debt collectors get away with skirting the rules when attempting to collect debts is because many consumers are not aware of what their rights are, and are not prepared to assert them. Personal, family, and household debts are all covered under the FDCPA; business debts are not covered. Collectors may include collection agencies, companies that buy delinquent debt with the purpose of trying to collect on it, and lawyers who regularly attempt to collect debts. Some of the basic rules that all collectors should be following include:
Respecting the time and place parameters of collecting a debt – There is a firm rule in place that a debt collector should not contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you have specifically asked them to. If you have informed them that you are unable to answer calls at work, either verbally or in writing, they must not contact you there as well.
They must be upfront about their identity, and the fact that they are debt collectors. Some debt collectors try to establish initial contact by pretending to be representing a government agency, an old friend, classmate, an attorney — even if they aren’t one. Once they have the person they want, their collection pitch begins, which may include threatening language or harassment, in addition to deception.
They must be upfront about the debt, and give you the opportunity to dispute it. Within the first five days of initial contact, a collector is required to send you a validation notice with the amount that you owe, and the creditor that you owe the money to, as well as instructions for how to dispute the debt if you do not believe it is valid. After you receive the validation notice, you have 30 days to dispute the debt via letter. Once you dispute, the collector cannot contact you again unless they are able to obtain written verification that the debt is indeed legitimate.
They must respect your privacy. If, in an attempt to get a hold of you regarding a debt, a debt collector contacts other people, they cannot tell those people anything specific about your debt. They can ask for information about where you work, your address or phone number, and should not contact third parties more than once. They only people, other than you, that they can discuss specifics about your debt is your spouse or your attorney. Also, if you have indicated that an attorney is to handle negotiation for a certain debt, they must direct any collection efforts to the attorney.
If you are struggling with debt collectors, an attorney can help you determine if those collectors are practicing fair debt collection practices, and help you assert your rights if they are not.