Identifying Abusive Debt Collection Practices
People being people, they get into debt and sometimes can’t or don’t pay their debts. The lender wants their money so they employ people called debt collectors to get it for them. Debt collectors sometimes use what are termed abusive debt collection practices. This article is about identifying abusive debt collection practices.
The first thing you should know is Congress passed an act called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that is the key to identifying abusive debt collection practices. This act is often simply referred to by its acronym FDCPA.
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act is the definitive tool to identifying abusive debt collection practices. I say that because the FDCPA actually provides a list of behaviors in which debt collectors may not engage.
The below list was extracted from the FDCPA. This author strongly advises you to read the act in its entirety. It is only a few pages and a very easy read. Here is the gist of the important parts:
- Debt collectors may not contact you before 8am or after 9pm in your time zone.
- Debt collectors may not contact you at work if you inform them that your employer prohibits you from receiving such communication.
- Debt collectors must comply with your written request to stop contacting you. After that, they can only further communicate with you to tell you that they are terminating their collection efforts or that they intend to seek a specified legal remedy against you.
- Debt collectors may not harass or abuse you. Specifically, they may not threaten violence, use obscene language, publish a list of consumers “who allegedly refuse to pay debts”, cause your phone to ring excessively, or engage you in phone conversation repeatedly “with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number”. They also may not call without identifying themselves or using a fake name.
- Debt collectors may not attempt to shame you into paying by implying that you have committed a crime.
- Debt collectors may not communicate with you by postcard and they may not include anything on the envelope of a letter to indicate that they are a debt collection agency. The idea here is that your financial information should be kept private – a postal employee, family member or roommate who happens to see your mail shouldn’t be privy to this information.
- Debt collectors may not tell you that they are employed by a consumer reporting agency. They are not and most likely never will be.
Identifying abusive debt collection practices is just your first step. You must document them should you either end up in court or you wish to make a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC is the oversight agency responsible to make sure debt collectors are not breaking the law. They have brought numerous actions against debt collectors and fined them or shut them down or both.
They are like the 800 pound gorilla in the room. However, they don’t know if a debt collector is violating the law unless they are told. That is why it is very important your skills at identifying abusive debt collection practices are sharp.
Protect yourself from becoming a victim of an overzealous debt collector and get up to speed on identifying abusive debt collection practices. It is in your best interest.
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