Debt collectors are restricted by powerful state and federal laws from a wide range of practices. You can stop debt collectors from harassing you by following a few guidelines.
The principal law that protects debtors from harassment is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (the FDCPA). This law imposes obligations on debt collectors, protects debtors, but of course, does not erase a legitimate debt that one may owe.
What Types of Debts are Covered?
The FDCPA applies to personal, family, and household debts. This would include credit cards, automobile payments, medical bills. The Act does not apply, however, to business debts, as when a business obtains a bank loan to purchase equipment.
What Types of Debt Collectors Must Comply?
The Act applies to “any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another”– in other words, any person who regularly collects debts owed to others. This does include attorneys.
By What Means Can a Debt Collector Contact a Debtor?
A collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax. However, a debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you consent. A debt collector also may not contact you at work if the collector knows that your employer disapproves of such contacts.
How Can I Stop a Debt Collector From Calling Me?
You have the right to demand that a debt collector cease all communication with you. You can stop a debt collector by writing a letter to the debt collector telling them to stop. You can also request specific prohibitions such as “do not call me at work”, or “do not call me after 7pm.” Thereafter, the debt collector is not allowed, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, from making further contact with you, except to send one final letter.
A Summary of Illegal Conduct Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:
The Act prohibits certain types of “abusive and deceptive” conduct when attempting to collect debts, including the following:
*Contacting consumers by telephone outside of the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. local time.
*Contact after being asked to stop: contacting consumers in any way (other than litigation) after receiving written notice that the consumer wishes no further contact or refuses to pay the alleged debt, with certain exceptions, including advising that collection efforts are being terminated or that the collector intends to file a lawsuit or pursue other remedies where permitted.
*Contacting consumers at their place of employment after having been told verbally or in writing that this is not acceptable.
*Contacting consumer known to be represented by an attorney.
*Contacting consumer after request for validation: contacting the consumer or the pursuing collection efforts by the debt collector after receipt of a consumer’s written request for verification of a debt (or for the name and address of the original creditor on a debt) and before the debt collector mails the consumer the requested verification or original creditor’s name and address.
*Misrepresentation or deceit: misrepresenting the debt or using deception to collect the debt, including a debt collector’s misrepresentation that he or she is an attorney or law enforcement officer.
*Publishing the consumer’s name or address on a “bad debt” list.
*Seeking unjustified amounts, which would include demanding any amounts not permitted under an applicable contract or as provided under applicable law.
*Threatening arrest or legal action that is either not permitted or not actually contemplated.
*Abusive or vulgar language used in the course of communication related to the debt.
*Contact with third parties: revealing or discussing the nature of debts with third parties (other than the consumer’s spouse or attorney) or threatening such action.
*Reporting false information on a consumer’s credit report or threatening to do so in the process of collection.