If you’re drowning in debt, it can seem as though there is no way out. And it doesn’t help that creditors could be calling you — and maybe even your family members and neighbors — looking for you. It may seem that you are at the mercy of debt collectors, but the truth is that you have rights, and you have protections from unscrupulous collectors. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) spells out practices that debt collectors can’t engage in. So, know your rights, and don’t be afraid to report debt collectors who violate these 6 provisions in the FDCPA:
1. Debt Collectors Have to Stop Calling If You Tell them To
The hitch? You have to do it in writing. So, if you don’t want debt collectors to call you anymore, you need to write a letter (keep a copy for yourself) and send it along. I recommend using certified mail so that you can prove the debt collector received the letter. After receiving your request, debt collectors can only contact you, by mail, to let you know of certain actions that will be taken (including a lawsuit).
2. You Have a Right to Verify the Debt
Debt collectors have to send you written notice of the debt amount and the name of the creditor, as well as let you know you have a right to dispute the debt within 30 days. This has to be sent within five days of the first communication with you. You have the right to have this debt validated, and you have the write to dispute. Once you ask, in writing (use certified mail and keep copies), for verification or if you dispute, the debt collector can’t try to collect until the matter is settled.
3. You Ask Collectors Not to Call Your Workplace
If debt collectors know your employer doesn’t want you to answer personal calls at work, or that your employer objects to these calls, they can’t call your workplace.
4. Don’t Pay More than You Owe
Ask for verification. Debt collectors can’t misrepresent your debt, claiming you owe more than you do. Additionally, they can’t tack on extra fees that aren’t allowed by your original credit agreement. Make sure you understand your original terms, and the law. You don’t have to pay more than what the law allows.
5. Debt Collectors Can’t Harass You on the Phone
The FDCPA considers certain actions harassment on the phone, and it is illegal for them to engage in these actions:
- Threats of violence
- Profanity or abusive language
- Personal insults
- Calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Repeated or continuous calls
- Threats of arrest (no warrant will be issued for regular debts)
Debt collectors can’t harass you, and you should note harassment from debt collectors and report it.
6. Debt Collectors Can’t Inform Third Parties about Your Debt
Debt collectors aren’t supposed to publicly share your debt. Indeed, the only people that debt collectors can legally inform of your debt are the credit reporting agencies, your attorney, the creditor, the creditor’s attorney, your legal spouse, or, if you are a minor, your parents.
Additionally, debt collectors aren’t supposed to repeatedly call third parties, such as neighbors, for information about your location. If there is reason to believe previously provided information is false, a debt collector can call a third party once to get location information (but they cannot discuss the debt in the process).