Not every debt collector plays by the rules. If you’ve ever dealt with an aggressive debt collector you know the feeling of anxiety when the phone rings repeatedly. Most people have every intention of paying their debt. But there are times when hardships occur and repaying a debt is not possible.
Whatever your situation, debt collectors have specific rules they must follow. If you run into a debt collector who is not playing by the rules there are legal remedies available to you.
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) offers consumers protection against rogue debt collection actions. If more consumers used the laws to turn the tables on rogue debt collectors, the abusive behavior would stop.
Here are several actions you can sue a debt collector for violating.
1. Discussing your debt with a third party
Debt collectors are allowed to call a third party, like your parents or siblings in an effort to locate you. However they are not allowed to discuss your debt with the third party. Debt collectors can ask to speak with you and whether the number dialed is a good number to reach you, but they cannot discuss the debt. They cannot contact a third party more than once unless required to do so by the third party, or unless they believe the third party’s earlier response was wrong and that the third party has accurate information. There are a few exceptions in that debt collectors are allowed to contact a credit reporting agency and the original creditor.
2. Calling you before or after hours
A debt collector may not call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. A debt collector also cannot call you at a time that is known to be inconvenient. If you’ve told a debt collector not to call at a certain time that is considered a violation of the FDCPA. You may have written a debt collector a certified letter stating “Telephone calls are inconvenient for me, please contact me only through U.S. Mail.” The debt collector has been notified but continues to call you, they are violating the FDCPA.
3. Repetitious phone calls
If a debt collector calls you several times a day that can be considered an action to annoy, abuse, or harass you or any person answering the phone. This is a violation of the FDCPA.
4.Obscene language or threatening violence
You never have to put up with harassment. Just hang up the phone, or put the receiver down (without hanging up) and walk away. And, fortunately the FDCPA protects debtors from verbal abuse such as the use of obscene or profane language. Use of such language is grounds for a lawsuit. If a debt collector goes so far as to threaten violence, call the cops, get a police report and sue under the FDCPA as it is a direct violation.
5. Making false threats
A rogue debt collector may tell you anything in an effort to get you to pay. When a debt collector threatens an action they have NO INTENTION of following through on; that is making false statements. For instance, they might say, “We are going to sue you if you don’t pay within the next 10 days.” Repeatedly making that same threat lets you know they have no intention of filing a lawsuit and that’s a violation of the FDCPA.
6. Making false representations
When a debt collector calls you, they must disclose that they are attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose. That disclosure must be made to you whether they contact you in writing or over the phone.
7. Misleading representations
A debt collector cannot claim to be law enforcement or suggest that it is connected with the federal, state, or local government. Debt collectors cannot falsely claim to be attorneys or that a communication is from an attorney. Another big misleading and false representation is telling a debtor they can be imprisoned or that the debtor has committed a crime.
8. Calling the wrong party
When a debt collector continues harassing you even though he’s got the wrong number; that is grounds for a lawsuit.
9. Using pre-recorded or automated voice calls
Few people know about the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA) passed by the United States Congress in 1991. Part of that Act focuses on restricting the use of automated telephone equipment. The TCPA prohibits any company, not just a debt collector, from calling you on your cellphone using an automated telephone system or pre-recorded voice without your express consent.
10. Using automatic phone dialing systems
Predictive dialer or ATDS telephone systems make numerous phone calls automatically, dialing one number after another. Under the TCPA it is illegal to repeatedly call consumers. You can sue a debt collector under the TCPA and get between $500 and $1,500 per call as part of the damages.
Keep detailed records and document any possible violations. Write down dates and times of conversations along with notes about what you discussed. These records can help you if you have a dispute with a debt collector, meet with a lawyer, or go to court. If legal in your state, record telephone calls as proof of any violations.