No doubt receiving an unexpected call from a debt collector can be alarming and scary at times, but that is no reason to allow a debt collector to get away with telling you lies. Chances are debt collectors are hoping you do not know your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Knowing your rights can help protect you from an aggressive debt collector. Some aspects of the FDCPA can be used to immediately end the telephone call and never hear from the debt collector again. Here are three actions debt collectors cannot take although they may tell you differently:
1. Threaten arrest if you do not pay
Debt collectors do not have the right to have you arrested. The United States does not have a debtor’s prison. Unpaid debts are civil actions, not criminal. The FDCPA says a debt collector cannot threaten to do anything to you that they have no legal right to do. In fact, the FDCPA says debt collectors cannot even threaten to file a lawsuit against you if they don’t actually plan on carrying out the action.
Consumers who may have defaulted on payday loans often have rogue debt collectors who pretend they are in the process of filing or have already filed a lawsuit against you. They may even call you stating a bogus case number. Many times they are simply trying to intimidate you and no case has been filed or is even going to be filed.
Should you get a call from a debt collector threatening to have you served or arrested immediately request written notice of the debt. Under the law, a collector must provide this notice with the amount of the debt, name of the creditor and statement of your right to dispute the debt, within five days of their initial contact with you.
In cases of debt collectors calling you for unpaid payday loans, you may find they will simply hang up even though debt collectors are legally required to reveal what company they work for upon your request.
2. Threaten to tell your employer about the debt
Debt collectors cannot legally tell or even threaten to tell anyone about your debt, that includes your employer. What they can do is contact your family, friends, workplace and even neighbors to locate you. They cannot however, reveal details about your debt. They can only contact a third-party one time to inquire about your whereabouts.
When it comes to your employer, a debt collector cannot contact your employer once you tell them not to contact you on the job. However, if a debt has resulted in a court judgment against you, the debt collector can contact your employer as long as they have a court order.
3. Threaten to bombard you with repeated calls
A debt collector must comply with a request to stop calling you once you make an oral or written request. Preferably you should make the request in writing, sending it certified, return receipt mail. However, debt collectors are legally required to stop calling you whether the request is oral or written. If you want the debt collector to only contact you in writing, send a letter stating “telephone calls are inconvenient, contact should be in writing only.”
You can also request a debt collector completely cease all contact with you by stating such in a letter. This is known as a “Cease and Desist” letter. When you request a full cease and desist it must be in writing, sent via certified, return receipt mail. The only issue with a full cease and desist is that a debt collector may be planning to bring a lawsuit against you and you would want to know that before it is actually filed. Typically a partial cease and desist which includes contact only in writing will be sufficient.
You may find a rogue debt collector does not want to give their business address. The reason is they already know the tenets of the FDCPA which says in a debt collector’s initial communication with you, they must give you the opportunity to ask for debt validation and dispute the debt. Once you dispute a debt in writing, the collection agency must stop contacting you until it provides written verification of the debt.
More actions debt collectors are prohibited from taking
- Make calls to you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. local time
- Tell anyone you owe money
- Use harassment or abuse to force payment
- Use obscene language.
- Deceive you about how much you really owe
- Trick you into paying by using such tactics as claiming you will be arrested
- Contact you at your workplace if you’ve told them that your employers doesn’t permit such calls