Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

What is FDCPA?

Debt Collection: Know Your Rights by Federal Trade Commission

What protections a consumer has?

These things are *illegal* under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:
  • Calls before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
  • Multiple calls in a day
  • Calls to your workplace
  • Calls to friends, family members, or references
  • Disclosure of personal information about you or your debts to others
  • Threats of lawsuits or wage garnishments
  • Other actions that make you feel abused or harassed

Are all debts subject to the FDCPA?

Answer: No, only debts that arise out of a transaction in which the money, property, insurance, or services were provided for primarily personal, family, or household purposes.  Commercial or business debt is not covered by the FDCPA.

What types of actions are considered illegal under the FDCPA?

Answer: The FDCPA and case law have developed a wide body of actions that are illegal. 

Over time, there have been so many violations determined that it would be nearly impossible to list all of them effectively. 

One easy test you can use is that if what a collector or lawyer says to you does not make sense or is insulting, it is likely a violation of the FDCPA. 

Be assured that even if you owe a debt that does not entitle anyone to the right to threaten or embarrass you. 

Also, any disrespectful, undignified, unfair, or untrue statements, either on the telephone or in writing, or in person will likely be a violation of the FDCPA.

What can I do if I believe a debt collector violated the FDCPA?

Answer: If you feel that you have been mistreated, you may have a right to sue the debt collector and get money back from them for their misconduct.

How Do I Know If A Debt Collector Has Violated The FDCPA

Answer:  In short, if the debt collector has done something that was unfair (divulging the details of your debt to a 3rd party), untrue, or harassing (calling multiple times), or abusive (cursing or threatening you), there is a good possibility that the debt collector violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and may owe you compensation.

What Types Of Debt Collectors Are Regulated By The FDCPA?

Answer: Third-party (not in-house) collection agencies collecting for creditors.

Exemptions to the FDCPA guidelines include in-house collection agents who collect their own debt such as department stores using their own in-house debt collectors.

However, California consumers are protected from “in-house” debt collector abuse by the California Rosenthal Act.

How Can I Stop Fraudulent Debt Collection Calls From Scammers?

Answer: Try the following:

  • Sign up for Google Voice. Google Voice is a great replacement voice mail system. 
  • Call the scammers back with the new Google Voice phone number. Make sure when you call you to identify yourself so the scammers start up their script. At any point, after they have your information pulled up just hang up. They will then start harassing your Google Voice number. 
  • Change your old number so that the scammers only have the new Google Number to harass instead of the phone number that you use. 

Important Note: Do NOT do this with legitimate debt collectors as a tactic to avoid their calls. Avoiding legitimate debt collectors could lead to legal headaches for you.

There are other ways to legally protect yourself from legitimate debt collectors that are harassing you if they are violating your consumer rights, including the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and Rosenthal Act.

What Is Considered Debt Collection Harassment?

Answer:  According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the following are common types of debt collector harassment that are in violation of the FDCPA:

  • Debt collectors may NOT use violence or threats of violence to collect a debt;
  • Debt collectors may NOT use obscene or profane language;
  • Debt collectors may NOT advertise your debt for sale;
  • Debt collectors may NOT use or threaten to use violence or criminal means to harm you
  • Debt collectors may NOT threaten you with arrest;
  • Debt collectors may NOT use profane or abusive language;
  • Debt collectors may NOT call you repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy or harass; 
  • Debt collectors may NOT call you at work after they have been told that your employer prohibits you from receiving personal calls;
  • Debt collectors may NOT place telephone calls without meaningful disclosures of their identity; 
  • Telling 3rd parties about your debt

Harassing or Abusive Tactics

  • making false representations that they are government representatives;
  • making false representations that they will seize, garnish or sell any property or wages unless such action is lawful;
  • making false representations that you have committed a crime or that you will be arrested or imprisoned;
  • making false representations that papers resembling official documents are from a court or governmental agency when they are not;
  • making false representations about the amount of the debt;
  • making false representations that the debt collector is employed by a credit bureau;
  • making false representations that they are attorneys or that there is the involvement of an attorney in collecting a debt;
  • making threats to communicate false credit information with any other person; or
  • using a false business name.

Other Prohibited Practices: Debt collection agencies are prohibited from:

  • collecting an amount greater than what you owe;
  • depositing a post-dated check prior to the date on the check;
  • contacting you by postcard;
  • threatening to take possession of your property through non-judicial action, when there is no right to do so.

How Much Will It Cost Me To Hire An Attorney To Fight A Debt Collector Who Is Violating The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

Nothing. If a debt collector is found to be in violation of the FDCPA, not only do you qualify to be compensated for your injuries, but the debt collector must also pay your attorney and court costs.

What Do I Do If Debt Collectors Are Calling My Friends And Family?

Debt collectors are allowed to contact your friends and family members, only if they do not have your direct contact information.

They are only allowed to attempt to acquire your contact information from your friends and family.

They are not allowed to disclose to them that you owe a debt.

If they disclose details of your debt to these 3rd party individuals they are in violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and you may be entitled to compensation. If this happens, document it and give us a call for a free consultation.

Can I Record A Phone Conversation With A Debt Collector?

If you’ve been receiving harassing phone calls from a debt collector, you’re probably thinking that recording your conversations would be a smart move.

If you’re able to let a judge actually listen to the harassment, it’s got to help your case, right?  Maybe but there are rules you need to follow.

Laws are different from state to state. 

For example, in California, you cannot record someone without informing him that he is being recorded and therefore you would need to make sure you notify the collection agent that you are going to record the call while you’re recording.

In New York, however, as long as one party to the conversation (i.e. you) knows it is being recorded, it is allowed.

What damages can I get from an FDCPA case?

If you are successful in an FDCPA claim, you can get up to $1,000 for the violation plus any actual damages you may have suffered (i.e. lawyer fees to defend against the debt collectors’ actions), plus attorney fees for processing the case and costs.  You may also be eligible to be compensated for any emotional distress that may have been incurred.

A debt collector sent a fax to my employer asking for information, is that allowed?

Generally, it is a violation of the FDCPA for a debt collector to contact, or threaten to contact, any third party (i.e. family member, employer, or friend) for any information about the debtor other than in an attempt to locate the debtor.

I have been contacted by a debt collector what should I do?

Within five days after the initial communication from a debt collector, the debt collector must send you a written notice containing the amount of the debt, the name of the current creditor, and a statement that you have 30 days to dispute the debt, and if requested the debt collector will provide the name and address of the original creditor. 

Once a debt collector receives your written notice disputing the debt, it must stop all collection efforts, including the reporting of the debt to the credit bureaus, until the debt collector validates the debt. 

We recommend that you send a written dispute letter via certified mail to the debt collector.  Make sure you keep a copy of your letter and of every letter you receive from the debt collector.  You should send us a copy of these letters since very often we can find violations of the FDCPA in the letters.

If you are being intimidated and harassed by debt collectors, and you feel that they may be violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, call us today for a free consultation.

You can download the official Fair Debt Collection Practices Act PDF from the FTC.

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