Dealing with a debt collector is rarely a fun thing to do. It can be a challenge having to deal with unpaid debt but it does not have to be intimidating. There are rules that a debt collector must follow when contacting you about an unpaid bill. Unfortunately those rules are not always followed.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) gives you rights as a consumer. While the FDCPA does not apply to creditors, any third party debt collector contacting you must follow the rules when contacting you about a debt and that includes debt collection law firms. The Act covers personal, family, and household debts, including money you owe on a personal credit card account, an auto loan, a medical bill, and your mortgage.
Here are 9 facts debt collectors hope you don’t know:
1. No threats, rude language, harassment or bugging you at work.
A debt collector may not threaten to have you arrested if you do not pay your debt. Debt collectors may not threaten to sue you, unless they actually intend to file a lawsuit. Debt collectors cannot use obscene, profane, or abusive language. Debt collectors cannot repeatedly call you or place telephone calls to you without identifying themselves as a debt collector. Once you tell a debt collector your employer doesn’t allow you to talk with them while you are at work, they must stop calling you there. You can request no calls at your employer but it is better to put your request in writing. Once you make it clear that calls to your employer are unacceptable, they must cease.
2. No implying you have committed a crime.
It is illegal for a debt collector to even imply you have committed a crime. An unpaid debt is a civil matter, not a criminal matter. The U.S. does not have a debtor’s prison. Unpaid debts are not a crime. Only law enforcement or public prosecutors can file criminal charges against you.
3. Unpaid payday loan is not check fraud.
Many debt collectors attempting to collect payday loan debt often imply the debtor has somehow committed check fraud. This cannot be further from the truth. A payday loan is a debt that you have a civil obligation to repay. The debt collector can use the civil courts to collect but not criminal courts.
4. No automated robo-calls to cell phones.
Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act debt collectors are prohibited using automated dialing systems (more commonly known as “robocalls”) to call consumers on their cellphones without the consumer’s express permission. When you tell a debt collector not to contact you on your cellphone but they repeatedly do so, you can sue from $500 to $1500 for each call done with an autodialer. Consumers who are getting robocalls on their cellphones should keep accurate records of the calls and talk with a consumer law attorney.
5. No blabbing to others about your debt.
Debt collectors are allowed to contact friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers to find information about your whereabouts but they but cannot inform anyone about your debt. In most cases, a debt collector may not tell anyone other than you, a cosigner, your spouse or your attorney that you owe money. The debt collector 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 or incomplete and that the third party has correct or complete information.
6. No collecting on a debt larger than what is owed.
A debt collector cannot collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt – or your state law – allows the charge. At the time you were issued your loan or credit line you most likely signed an application. This application should have specifically detailed the interest rate, charges, fees or incidental expenses that could be charged in the event of late payment, non-payment or default. If you are being assessed excessive fees, interests and charges request definitive proof, which includes your agreement to the terms of the loan. They probably cannot provide the original application agreement.
7. Debt collector must send written notice of a debt.
Within five days of contacting you, a debt collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe and the name of the creditor. This notice also must explain what actions to take if you believe you do not owe the money.
8. Debt collector must honor written request for no further contact.
You can request no further contact with you, family members, neighbors (whoever) and the debt collector must honor the request. A debt collector must cease contact if you send a certified, return receipt letter requesting the debt collector do so. If you believe you do not owe the money or you dispute the debt you should also state that in your letter. Be aware that a legitimate debt will not go away simply because the collection calls stop. It is best to request no further telephone contact only. You still want to receive any written communication just in case the debt collector takes legal action for the amount owed.
9. If you dispute the debt, the collector must verify it.
If you send the debt collector a letter stating that you don’t owe any or all of the money, or request verification of the debt, that collector must stop contacting you. Once a debt collector sends you verification of the debt, collection activities may resume. You have to send that letter within 30 days after you receive the validation notice.