Although debt collectors are simply doing their job, they often use unscrupulous methods to obtain money from debtors. What many debtors don’t realize is that there are laws regarding what they can and cannot do. Knowing these laws is of great help when you are being harassed and want it to stop. What are 12 things debt collectors are not allowed to do?
Lie About Other Options
A debt collector might try to tell a debtor they have no other options and the debt must be paid in full. This is not the case. A person might find debt consolidation will allow them to pay the funds over time, or a person may discover they need to file for bankruptcy to get their financial situation back in order. Contact National Debt Relief to learn about debt consolidation and how it may be of help to you in resolving your debt.
Call at All Hours
Imagine trying to get a good night’s sleep so you can go to work the next morning ready to take on any challenges that arise. In the past, debt collectors didn’t care that those who owed money were trying to work to pay their bills. They would call all hours of the day and night in an effort to collect the funds. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act put a halt to calls after 9 p.m. and before 8 a.m. However, if a debtor asks to receive calls during these hours, the debt collector may continue to call outside the hours designated by the act.
Harass by Phone
Another tactic used by debt collectors was to call an individual repeatedly. The hope was that the debtor would talk to them simply to stop the calls. This is no longer allowed. Debt collectors cannot annoy someone with repeated calls. Doing so is a direct violation of this act.
Cuss at Debtors
Debt collection agencies would often use abusive language when speaking to a debtor. Today, debt collectors are prohibited from using profane or obscene language. Doing so could open the collection agency up to a lawsuit by the debtor.
Publicly Share Information about Debtor
In the past, debt collection agencies would publish a list of names of those who owed them. This practice was halted when the FDCPA was put into place. This means a debt collector cannot even send a postcard, as the information contained on the card could be seen by individuals in the mail system. Be aware that while publication of these names is prohibited, the agencies are still allowed to share this information with credit bureaus.
Lie about the Consequences of the Debt
Debt collectors would often threaten debtors with jail time if they didn’t pay. A debt collector cannot claim that a crime has been committed or tell a debtor he or she could be arrested if the debt is not paid. Furthermore, the agencies cannot tell a debtor that will garnish, attach, seize or sell property or wages without having taken the necessary legal action to obtain authorization for this step.
Lie about Who They Work For
Debt collectors must be honest about who they work for. They cannot lie about this. In addition, they are prohibited from sending any documents that appear to be from a government agency or court unless they come directly from that court or agency. Any papers that are sent can only be identified as legal documents if they actually are. Debt collectors cannot lie about where the papers come from in an effort to collect on the debt. They also cannot say they work for a credit reporting agency if they don’t.
Collect Certain Funds
Debt collectors cannot collect certain funds from a debtor. For instance, the debt collector cannot garnish railroad retirement benefits or social security benefits. This is true even when the court has authorized legal action against the debtor. Numerous funds are exempt from garnishment, so be sure to learn if you are protected when it comes to your income.
Lie about the Amount Owed
No debt collector can misrepresent the amount owed. Likewise, they are prohibited from collecting any charges, including interest and fees, above the amount owed. The only exceptions are when state law allows additional charges or additional fees are outlined in the contract that created the debt.
Ignore a Cease-and-Desist Letter
A debtor retains the right to send a letter to the collection agency, stating they are no longer permitted to contact the debtor. Once this has been done, the debt collection agency is limited in what contact can be made with this individual. For instance, the agency may contact the debtor to let him or her know of additional collection actions, such as when a lawsuit will be filed in court or to confirm the no-contact request.
Threaten Harm or Violence
A home is meant to be a person’s safe place. When a debt collector calls and threatens harm or violence, a person may feel they need to leave their residence to remain safe. Fortunately, this is no longer allowed by law. If a debt collector threatens you with harm or violence, it’s time to seek assistance and report this behavior to the proper authorities. You should always feel safe in your home.
Deposit a Check Early
A person, in an effort to resolve the debt, may provide post-dated checks to the collection agency. Once these checks have been turned over, they can only be deposited on the date written on the check. The agency is prohibited from depositing the check early in an effort to obtain the funds before the agreed-upon date.
Debtors need to know their rights under the law and what actions to take if a debt collection agency is in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you have any questions about this act and what it states, don’t hesitate to seek legal advice. You may find that your debt with the agency is erased and they owe you funds when the law is violated. It never hurts to ask.