Unknown to many, debt collectors often violate the law when trying to collect our debts. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act dictates how they should deal with us, but because we ourselves are not familiar with our own rights, many (although, not all) collectors violate them openly. Here we will look at some of the common ways that debt collectors violate the law and what actions we can take to counter them.
Harassing Phone Calls, Lying and Using Profane Threats
1. Calling at inconvenient times
Debt collectors are only allowed to call you from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. They are prohibited from communicating with you at any unusual time or place known to be inconvenient to you. If they don’t know what times are inconvenient to you, debt collectors should assume that your convenient time is after 8 a.m. and before 9 p.m. in your local time. Otherwise, that would constitute a violation.
2. Threats of criminal charges/wage garnishment
Some of our clients who came to us for help have encountered wage garnishment threats and they panic even before they ask if it’s possible. This is usually a lie because debt collectors cannot garnish your wages just like that since there has to be a legal action first. They would need to sue you first and get a permission from court before they can garnish your wages.
Other debt collectors resort to threats of criminal charges – these are powerful bullying tactics to get you to pay your debt. However, under FDCPA, any threat that cannot be legally taken or that is not intended to be taken is actually illegal.
If a debt collector does not ordinarily take such legal action, then that is illegal.
3. Persistent communication despite request to stop collection calls
When debt collectors start to annoy you with too many collection calls, the first thing you probably ask yourself is how you can stop them from calling you.
The answer is to that is quite straightforward. You can simply notify them in writing that you want them to stop calling.
“As simple as that?” You might ask.
Yes. Under FDCPA, once you tell debt collectors that you refuse to pay a debt or that you wish to end any further contact with them, they are not allowed to communicate with you anymore except:
- to notify you that they have received your request and will now stop the collection calls
- to notify you that they or your creditors may take specific actions which they ordinarily take in similar circumstances, or…
- to notify you that they actually intend to invoke a specific remedy or action.
4. Calling third parties such as your neighbors or your employer
Here’s the thing: debt collectors are allowed to call third parties but there are, of course, specific rules of engagement. They are allowed to acquire or confirm information about you from your neighbors or any third party for that matter, but – and this is important — they may not state that you owe any debt.
When they communicate by mail, they are forbidden from using any symbol or language that indirectly indicates that they are collection agents.
5. Lying and using profane language
Many people are confused with what actually constitutes harassment or abuse when in comes to collection calls. Outright threats of violence or intention to physically harm you are obvious cases of harassment.
But how about using profanity or obscene language?
It may appear as a gray area but this is clearly stated in the law that using profane language constitutes harassment or abuse to the intended recipient of the message. If collectors communicate with you in foul language, they risk a lawsuit. If you have clear evidence against them, you have a big chance of winning a case and getting paid by your collector.
Some debt collectors also resort to lying to manipulate you into paying your debt. This is a very aggressive tactic that could get into other people’s sanity. Some would even file bankruptcy to stop such harassment. That is absolutely unfair on the debtor’s part.
Knowing your own rights which are specified by the FDCPA can help you avoid falling a victim of unfair collection tactics. Armed with these knowledge, you stop accepting abuse from debt collectors.
Just because you have a financial obligation to a creditor does not mean that they can trample your rights as a consumer. After all, creditors and debt collectors are dictated by the law to treat you as a human being, i.e., with fairness and respect.