All too often, individuals who are struggling with their debt fall victim to debt collector tricks and scams—all because they aren't aware of the laws that exist to protect them. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was enacted to protect people from the unfair, deceptive and abusive tactics that many companies were using in their attempt to collect outstanding debts. Under this law, you have specific rights that protect you from the worst debt collector tricks.
Think about your last interaction with a debt collector. Did any of the following occur?
- Calls made before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
- Calls made to your workplace
- Calls made so frequently as to become an annoyance
- Use of abusive or obscene language
- Threats of bodily harm or pending arrest
- False statements made regarding the amount of your debt
- Misrepresentation on the part of the debt collector (for example, pretending to be an attorney or the police)
- Contact made only by postcard (vs. a phone call or letter)
- Attempt to collect interest or another fee that is not a part of the original contract for the debt
- Contact made to you rather than the attorney who is representing you in the matter
While we've listed some of the most frequently occurring abuses here, that doesn't mean there aren't other practices that are illegal. The most important thing that you can do to avoid these and other issues is to educate yourself on your rights under the law. The Federal Trade Commission's website offers a detailed summary of FDCPA and is a great place to get started.
Keep in mind that most states also have their own version of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. You can contact your state's Attorney General office (www.naag.org) to learn more or to report a violation by a particular debt collection firm. The Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov), which enforces the FDCPA, has extensive information about consumer rights in general, as well as an online complaint form.
If you feel that you've been the victim of unfair practices or debt collector tricks, take the time to research your rights. Then, take action to protect yourself.
photo by: stevendepolo