Once you incur a debt, repayment is the only matter in your hands that you still control. After a time, however, you may not owe the debt to the original creditor. If your payment is late, the creditor may hire a debt collector on a contingency basis. More often, they will sell the debt to a collector who now owns the right of repayment.
At this point, your original creditor may not care about a future ongoing relationship with you. They got what they could in return for the original debt that you owed them. The debt collector will stop at nothing to make money, and it often comes at your expense. If you’re facing relentless debt collector harassment, consult a California debt collector harassment lawyer for guidance on your rights and potential legal actions. Don’t let abusive tactics go unchecked protect yourself and fight back against unlawful debt collection practices.
Each debt collector may employ their methods. The common denominator between them is that they want to get paid. You are not their customer. Instead, they view you as someone they need to squeeze or pressure to get their money, using any method they can.
Debt Collectors Can Only Try to Get Money for So Long
Debt collectors do not have unlimited time to collect what you owe them. Each state has its statute of limitations that puts an outer limit on the time that debt collectors can pursue you for the debt.
Debt collection law is a hybrid of federal and state statutes. Federal law governs what debt collectors can do when speaking with you. State laws provide the contractual backdrop for the lawsuit and the court procedures that debt collectors can use when they sue you for an unpaid debt.
Every State Has its Own Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations for debt collection is a function of state law. Each state imposes its limitations on debt collections. The individual law varies in each state. In some states, the time can be as long as ten years. In California, the statute of limitations for debt collections is four years.
The statute of limitations for debt collection functions the same as in a court case. In litigation, a plaintiff loses the right to file an insurance claim or lawsuit as soon as time expires. The deadline is firm; the legal right expires if missed by even a day. It does not matter whether the debt collector is a day or a month late – the result is the same when any amount misses the deadline.
The statute of limitations depends on when you first fell behind on the debt and missed a payment, as opposed to when the debt collector purchased the debt.
Debt Collectors Purchase Debt from Creditors to Make Money
The debt collector may purchase the debt for a portion of what it is actually worth. The amount they pay depends on the likelihood that the debtors will pay. The older the debt is, the less likely the debtor will pay. Thus, debt collectors will pay less to own the right to collect.
However, the debt collector may still exert pressure on you to pay the debt because they can make a lot of money. If they have bought a portfolio of debt, they may make a large profit if even some debtors repay. Thus, the debt collector can make their presence known with a flurry of communication, and not all of it may comply with the law.
How Debt Collectors Illegally Pressure You
If the debt collector senses a large profit opportunity, they may:
- Call you repeatedly to harass and annoy you, with the intent of getting you to pay them so they will go away
- Tell you that they are either a lawyer or affiliated with a lawyer to scare you into paying the debt
- Threaten you or use profanity when speaking with you
- Speak to third parties who are not responsible for the debt to shame you or cause other consequences
- Misrepresent who they are or the nature or amount of the debt
- Ignore you when you tell them to stop communicating with you
You Can File a Lawsuit if the Debt Collector Breaks the Law
Federal and state laws give you remedies when the debt collector has engaged in illegal practices.
On the federal level, the Fair Debt Collection Protection Act limits what debt collectors can do when communicating with you. Congress passed the law after hearing extensive testimony from people who suffered consequences from abusive debt collection practices. The law allows debt collectors to keep doing their jobs while protecting you from some of the worst of their practices.
There are also state laws that regulate debt protectors. However, FDCPA generally preempts state law. You can sue under state law when it is more extensive than the federal law.
You Can File a Lawsuit for Late Collection of a Debt
It also violates FDCPA if the debt collector tries to collect the debt after the statute of limitations expires. Legally, the debt does not exist anymore, so the debt collector is trying to pressure you to pay what you do not really owe.
However, you must assert your legal rights. Like any other legal case, you need to assert the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense after the debt collector has filed a complaint in court. If you do not plead the statute of limitations as a defense, the debt collector may still obtain a judgment against you. In addition, you cannot file a lawsuit for an FDCPA lawsuit if you paid the debt or did not raise that the statute of limitations has expired.
Further, if the debt collector sued you for an old debt, you must show up in court to defend against the claim. If not, the court will order a default judgment without raising the issue that it was an old debt. Further, unlike other litigation, the court will not raise the issue of statute of limitations on its own if you do not.
Never appear in court alone and defend yourself. Always seek help from a consumer rights attorney to represent you.
You Can Make a Mistake that Revives an Old Debt
As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises, you assume responsibility for an old debt if you pay on it. If you did not know that old debts were no longer valid, and you even partially paid them, you are affirming the debt’s existence and need to pay the rest. Thus, you need to make an effort to be aware of your own legal rights.
However, it is not always as simple as outright agreeing to make payments on an old debt. Creditors may have tricks up their sleeves to get you to agree to pay a debt without even calling it that. For example, the Los Angeles Times reported, “A cable company has offered customers to make their old debt go away if they restart service.”
However, legal experts have advised that the “deal” can allow the cable operator to restart the clock when the statute of limitations begins to run.
Debt Collectors Know How to Trick You
Debt collectors and creditors are intelligent and savvy. They know how to get you to act against your interests. They have various tricks that may even reset the statute of limitations period. You may never even know what they did.
If they duped you into making even a small payment on a large debt, they can get a whole new four years to collect from you. Never put anything past a debt collector. The older the debt is, the less they pay for it. The debt collector may buy debt for next to nothing with the goal of convincing consumers to revive it.
You Need to Know the Tricks that Debt Collectors Use
You need to know the law and your rights. Debt collectors may throw an “offer” in front of you with very vague language that is fully intended to deceive. On the other hand, you may read it and think it is a great offer that can even get you off the hook for what you owe.
For example, the debt collector can offer “amnesty” if you make a small payment. That will get you to assume responsibility for an old debt. It does not matter whether you intend to accept responsibility or not – you are on the hook no matter what.
You Can File a Lawsuit Under the FDCPA
The FDCPA allows you a private right of action, where you can be your own attorney general. The court will still determine the result of your case, but you have a right to try to enforce the law. You do not have to wait for the government to do something about the situation. The money they received will not go to you even if they did.
If you can win an FDCPA lawsuit, you can receive:
- A statutory penalty of $1,000 for each debt collector (but not each separate violation of the law)
- Emotional distress damages from having to deal with the stress of a debt collector trying to collect an invalid debt
- Any actual damages that you suffered from the debt collector’s illegal actions
Keep Track of the Calendar and Talk to a Lawyer
Always pay attention to the calendar when someone tries to collect an old debt from you. You may not know when the statute of limitations expires. You may not even know the legal rules governing your case and your rights under federal law.
If you have questions about what a debt collector is doing, ask a lawyer. You may learn that the debt collector acted illegally. Not only will you not have to pay what they are seeking, but you can turn the tables on them and get them to pay you.
You Do Not Need to Pay for an FDCPA Lawyer Upfront
It does not cost you anything to speak with a consumer protection lawyer. An FDCPA attorney works for you on a contingency basis. If you file a lawsuit, an attorney only charges fees if you receive a settlement or award from the court. The lawyer will not ask you to pay anything when you hire them. The only time that your lawyer gets money is from the proceeds of your settlement.
You can face serious risks if you do not contact a consumer rights protection lawyer in California when you suspect a debt collector broke the law. The debt collector’s deceptive tactics can cost you significant money. Not only will you forgo potential lawsuit compensation, but you can even end up paying a debt that you did not owe in the first place. All it takes is a brief phone call to a lawyer to learn your rights and whether you have any legal recourse under FDCPA or state law.
Learn about your rights today.
The right lawyer will assess your situation and whether the statute of limitations expired on a debt. If a creditor tries to take legal action against you too late, your lawyer can raise the issue to the court to defend against the claim. Further, they might seek damages for you due to the wrongful collection attempts.
In case you’re facing debt collector harassment, consult a debt collector harassment lawyer in California to evaluate your rights and potential legal remedies. Don’t let abusive debt collection practices go unchallenged take a stand with the help of an experienced attorney.