Few things in life are capable of generating more anxiety than being on the wrong side of a debt in collections. How do those debt collectors know exactly when you’ll be sitting down to dinner? How do they know exactly what to say to get your blood pressure up? More importantly, though, how can you ever get them to stop calling, emailing and sending you text messages altogether?
That’s exactly how the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) protects you.
What Is the FDCPA?
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) describes it as follows:
“The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the main federal law that governs debt collection practices. The FDCPA prohibits debt collection companies from using abusive, unfair or deceptive practices to collect debts from you.”
Long story short, the act establishes the guidelines within which debt collectors must operate when communicating with debtors. However, it’s important to note, the CFPB goes on to state the Act’s provisions apply primarily to third-party debt collectors:
“Under the FDCPA, debt collectors include collection agencies, debt buyers, and lawyers who regularly collect debts as part of their business. There are also companies that buy past-due debts from creditors or other businesses and then try to collect them. These debt collectors are also usually called debt collection agencies, debt collection companies, or debt buyers”.
In other words, the original creditor isn’t necessarily bound by the tenets of the Act — although many creditors follow these rules anyway.
How the FDCPA Binds Collectors
The Act prevents collectors from:
• Phoning you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in your time zone
• Calling you at work after being informed your employer doesn’t approve of such calls
• Threatening you with physical or emotional violence, harassing, oppressing or abusing you psychologically
• Lying or falsely implying you’ve engaged in criminal behavior
• Using any of a range of unfair practices to try collecting a debt
• Concealing their identity on the phone
• Disregarding written requests to cease contact
In addition to the restrictions above, debt collectors are prohibited from communicating about your debt with third parties, such as your employer, neighbors and family. They must go through your attorney after being informed you’ve engaged legal counsel. And, they have to stop contacting you altogether if you request they do so.
You can also request that they speak to your agent at a debt resolution firm, such as Freedom Debt Relief, should you choose to avail yourself of negotiation or settlement to deal with the debt.
Addressing you with profane language, calling repeatedly to exercise harassment and listing your debt for sale to the general public are considered examples of personal abuse. Further, they are prohibited from asking you to provide postdated checks, taking or threatening to take unrelated property or collect more than you owe. Further, if you offer a postdated check, they are prohibited from cashing it before the date you select.
Collectors are required to prove the validity of the debt — in writing — upon your request. This usually takes the form of a validation letter. A verification letter upon your request must also follow it.
These documents must establish the following:
• The amount of the debt
• The identity of the creditor in question
• That you have 30 days to dispute the validity of the debt
• The collector will verify the debt by mail if you dispute it or request more information in writing within 30 days
• The collector must provide information about the original creditor within 30 days of first contact upon request
With this in mind, you can see why it’s important to record every phone call and keep every scrap of paper you get from a debt collector. This documentation will serve as evidence if you need to file a violation claim with the CFPB. Bear in mind, you must get a collector’s permission — on the recording — to record their call.
And, that’s how the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act protects you from untoward behavior by debt collectors.