What Debt Collectors Cannot Do
Have you been receiving constant phone calls from debt collectors at odd hours? Have debt collectors threatened you or your family? Have debt collectors used offensive language to coerce you to pay them? If any of this sounds familiar, then you may have a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) violation on your hands as that law describes what debt collectors cannot do in their attempts to collect on a debt. Debt collectors who violate the FDCPA may face a stiff penalty of $1,000 per offense and may be liable for paying your attorney fees should they be sued. Most attorneys who handle FDCPA claims may take your case based on contingency if you have a strong case.
Many debtors complain that they are often harassed by collection companies which may be a FDCPA violation. With that said, I often hear from consumers that they may be getting harassed or describe situation that may be a clear violation of the FDCPA, but the problem is the calls are from scammers or fake companies. Unfortunately if the calls are from a scammer or fake company, it may be hard to hold them accountable as they cannot be found or are calling from overseas. These days, there have been so many data breaches that these companies may have your personal information already such as, old debt accounts such as payday loans, your social security number or former addresses. You should not take these companies word for who they are. You should always ask for their contact information, company and validation of the debt to prove they are collecting on behalf of a client or can show documentation that they own the particular debt. Furthermore, legit debt collectors will always ask for identifying information to confirm your identity, will always provide contact information and will always provide a general disclosure about how they are attempting to collect a debt and any information will be used for that purpose.
Prohibited practices under the FDCPA may include (1) the use or threatening to use violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person, (2) use obscene, profane, or other language that abuses the hearer or reader, (3) publishing a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a consumer reporting agency or to persons meeting the requirements of section 603(f) or 604(3) of the FDCPA, (4) advertising a debt for sale to coerce payment, (5) annoy, abuse, or harass persons by repeatedly calling their telephone number or allowing their telephone to ring continually make telephone calls without properly identifying himself or herself, except as allowed to obtain location information. A legitimate debt collection company will record all conversations so that evidence may be available in discovery should you allege that any of these actions have taken place.
If you believe you may have a FDCPA violation on your hand you should try to obtain as much information as you can from your debt collector harasser. For instance you will want to collect their name, address and keep a log of a the communications that you receive. Also did you know that if you send a debt collection company written notice that you no longer want to receive any phone calls from them, then they have to stop calling. If they don’t, they may be in violation of the FDCPA. They can still send you bills and written notice, but at least that is tolerable and beats getting harassed all hours of the day or at work to pay a debt. Additionally a debt collector may also file a lawsuit against you to collect on a debt. If you dispute the debt or believe this is a debt that you have paid off, you can request that the debt collection company send validation of the debt and that you owe it. If they cannot produce such validation they must stop collecting and under the Fair Credit Reporting Act the debt must come off of your credit.
If the debt is valid, then it may be a good idea to talk to a debt settlement lawyer or bankruptcy attorney to go over your options to settle a debt for less than the full balance or consider bankruptcy options to completely wipe out a debt. if the debt is for a smaller manageable amount and you have no other debts you are having trouble handling, then perhaps debt settlement would be your best option. If you have numerous debts, make below the Washington State median income ($70K for a household of 1 and goes up from there based on your family size), and don’t have assets that are worth more than the Washington State or Federal bankruptcy exemptions, then you may want to take a look at your bankruptcy options.
If you have any questions about what debt collectors cannot do or think you may have a FDCPA violation claim, feel free to contact the Symmes Law Group at 206-682-7975 or schedule a consultation online to discuss your options.