You have many rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when a debt collector is trying to collect money from you. To preserve your rights under the FDCPA, you must send a written dispute letter to the debt collector within 30 days of your receipt of the first “validation notice” from the debt collector. Please make sure you are courteous in your letter and please mail it by certified mail, return receipt requested to verify that the debt collector received it.
Debt Collection Laws
Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, debt collectors may not:
- Use threats of violence or harm;
- Publish a list of consumers who refuses to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau);
- Use obscene or profane language;
- Repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone;
- Call before 8AM or after 9PM; or
- Threaten that you will be arrested or jailed for failure to pay.
Debt collectors may not use any false or misleading statements when collecting a debt. For example, debt collectors may not:
- Tell you that they are attorneys or government representatives, when in fact they are not;
- Falsely imply that you have committed a crime;
- Misrepresented that they operate or work for a credit bureau;
- Misrepresent the amount of your debt;
- Indicate that papers being sent to you are not legal forms when they, in fact, are;
- State that you will be arrested if you do not pay your debt;
- Threaten to seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages, unless the collection agency or creditor intends to do so, and it it is a legal action; or
- Threaten that actions, such as a lawsuit, will be taken against you, when such an action legally may not be taken, or when they do not intend to take such action.
Debt Collectors May Not:
- Give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit bureau;
- Send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government but not an official document; or
- Use a false name in their attempts to collect your debt.
Unlawful Collection Practices
Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, collectors may not:
- Collect an amount that is greater than your debt, unless your state law permits such a charge.
- Deposit a post-dated check early.
- Use deception to make you accept collect calls or pay for telegrams.
- Take, or threaten to take your property unless this can be done legally.
- Contact you by postcard.
Even if you owe the debt, or you cannot pay it, you still have rights protected under the law!
In order to preserve your rights under the law, it is important for you to keep good records of all contacts between you and the debt collector. The following are important steps you can take:
- Save copies of all letters and notices from collection agencies.
- Save all of your phone messages and voice mails.
Make a notation and keep good records of all of your conversations with these bill collectors. You can also contact us to get a collection diary form and use it to keep strict records of all the contact you have with your debt collectors. If you want to create your own collection diary form, please be sure to use the following headings so that you can get as much information as possible.
- Date call (month/date/year)?
- Exact time of call?
- How many minutes did the call last?
- Was it a phone call, voice mail, letter or paper message?
- What was the collector’s name?
- What was the collection agency’s name and telephone number?
- What did the collector say?
- Amount demanded?
- Payment terms?
- Threats? Profanity? Harassment? Legal Action?
- CAlls to friends and neighbors?
- Abuse? Get as much detailed information here as possible.
Zombie Debt & Zombie Debt Collection
Zombie debt collectors, also known as debt scavengers, are ones who attempt to collect debts that consumers either do not owe, debts that were discharged in bankruptcy, or for debts that are not collectible due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Even if you originally owed the debt, if the statute of limitations has expired, the debtor can no longer sue you to collect the debt.
Statute of limitations vary from state to state and depend on the type of debt you owe. Generally, it is from three to six years from the last payment you made on the debt.
Be very careful if you receive a written notice or phone call from a debt collector concerning an old debt. The zombie debt collector is motivated to trick you into making even a small payment on the debt. They may promise not to contact you again, or not to report the debt to a credit reporting agency, or to remove the debt if it has already been reported, all in exchange for you paying only a small portion of the debt.
Do not speak to them on the phone. Most importantly, do not make any payment on the debt. A payment, no matter how little it may seem, will likely reconfirm the debt and start anew the running of the statute of limitations.
Your rights are protected under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Review these frequently asked questions for an overview of what a debt collection agency or creditor legally can, or cannot do, in their efforts to collect money from you. Please contact our firm for help if you think your rights have been violated.
Stop a debt collector from contacting you
You can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collector telling them to stop. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again, except to tell you there will be no further contact, or to notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action. Sending a letter to a debt collector that you actually owe money to will not get rid of this debt. You could still be sued by the creditor or collection agency.
Can a debt collector contact anyone else about my debt?
The debt collector must contact your attorney if you have one, rather than you. If you do not have an attorney, a collector may contact other people, but only to find out where you live, what your phone number is, and where you work. Also, collectors are only allowed to contact a third party once. In most cases, the collector may not tell anyone other than you and your attorney that you owe money. However, a debt collector may not disclose to anyone other than you or your spouse, anything about the alleged debt.
Can a debt collector contact me at work?
Initially, yes, but if you tell them (orally or in writing) that you are not allowed to get calls at work, they may NOT call you back at work.
How long can a collection agency attempt to collect a debt?
A collection agency may call you and send you letters in an attempt to collect a debt almost indefinitely. But, if the statute of limitations has passed, the debt is no longer collectible and you do not need to pay it even if it was originally a legitimate debt.
If the statute of limitations has passed, the debt cannot be reported to a credit reporting agency and the agency cannot file a lawsuit against you. Although some collection agencies provide this information to you, they are not required by law to advise you of this. If by chance the agency does file a lawsuit against you, all you have to do is provide proof to the court that the statute of limitations has passed and the case will be dismissed.
Each state has its own statute of limitations, but it is generally between three and six years. It also varies with the type of debt involved, whether it is a credit card debt, promissory note, or some other type of debt.
The statute of limitations that applies is generally the one in the state where you live. It may be in the state where you incurred the debt if you have moved during this time. Which state’s statute of limitations applies may also depend on the language in your loan document.
Can I dispute a debt at any time?
Yes, you can dispute any aspect of the alleged debt, orally or in writing and at any time. Also, if you do dispute the debt and the collector reports to credit reporting agencies, they must list the debt as “disputed?on your credit reports.
Specific information the debt collector must tell you about the debt
The collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe within five days after you are first contacted. This information must include the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and how to proceed if you believe you do not owe the money.
Can a debt collector continue to contact if you don’t owe money?
A collector may NOT contact you if, within 30 days after you receive the written notice, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money. However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent actual proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount you owe.
Debt collector has violated the law, what can I do?
You have the right to sue in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. You may recover money for the damages you suffered including emotional stress. Also, you can sue for statutory damages up to $1000.00 if you prove a violation under the law. Finally, court costs and attorney’s fees can be recovered. A group of people also may sue a debt collector and recover money for damages. We help clients receive compensation from harassing debt collectors. Contact our attorneys today for help.