Many people go through periods in their lives when it’s hard to pay their bills on time. When that happens, creditors oftentimes use debt collectors, or third-party collection agencies, to put pressure on those who owe them money.
Sometimes, the debt collector’s methods are excessive or even abusive. Fortunately, for consumers, debtors have rights under both state and federal laws that protect them against debt collection tactics that are unfair, deceptive and/or unreasonable.
The Debtor-Creditor Relationship
Fair debt collection laws are designed to protect a consumer (the debtor) when they owe money to another party (the creditor) for goods, services or financial loans with payment terms that are clearly explained in a written debt agreement.
Examples of debtor-creditor agreements include:
• Automobile loans
• Rental agreements for housing
• Credit card accounts
• Phone and utility bills
If you are the debtor, once you fall behind on your payments a creditor may lawfully take collection actions against you as long as they’re not abusive, embarrassing or harassing.
How Debt Collection Laws Protect You
Under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, consumers are protected against unfair collection tactics by third-party debt collection agencies, and buyers of past-due debt who hire third parties, including attorneys, to collect debt on their behalf.
In addition to these federal consumer protections, many states also have statutes that protect consumers against unfair collection tactics by original creditors and their attorneys.
Examples of Unfair Collection Tactics
Often a state’s Attorney General’s office is responsible for monitoring debt collection activities; and further, enforcing consumer protection laws. Some of the tactics that debt collectors are prohibited from engaging in include:
• Calling you at work if you have requested that they cease-and-desist verbally (up to 10 days) or in writing (until you remove the restriction).
• Calling you without identifying who they are. This also helps protect consumers against phone scammers.
• Calling you at home more than twice in a given 7-day period for each debt, or calling you more than twice at someplace other than your home for each debt during a given 30-day period.
• Contacting you directly if you are now represented by an attorney.
• Making a false, deceptive or misleading statement while attempting to collect a debt.
• Calling you at times other than your normal waking hours once you’ve informed the debt collector what those are. If you haven’t informed them, a debt collector is only allowed to call between the hours of 8:00 am and 9:00 pm.
• Using profane, threatening or obscene language.
• Falsely stating that nonpayment of debt will result in your arrest or imprisonment, or that similar action will take place as stated under false pretenses.
• Telling others (friends, relatives, neighbors, employers) about your debt without your written consent.
• Attempting to collect, or collecting, any amount that is not expressly authorized by the debt agreement or permitted by the law.
• Causing unreasonable expenses to you in the form of express mail charges, wire fees, long-distance phone calls, or other similar charges.
• Requesting or demanding a post-dated check from you.
• Visiting your residence outside your normal waking hours, and/or visiting your home more than once during any given 30-day period for each debt unless you’ve given them permission to do so.
Can a Debt Collector Search for Me?
Creditors and debt collectors are permitted to locate someone who owes them money by contacting persons who may know the debtor, including those who reside in the debtor’s household.
This is only allowed if the creditor or debt collector reasonably believes that they no longer have current information on the debtor’s whereabouts. However, when contacting others about the debtor’s whereabouts, the law prohibits any mention of the alleged debt.
Are You the Target of Unfair Debt Collection Tactics?
If you believe that you are being unfairly targeted by abusive debt collectors, contact the law offices of Forrest LaMothe today.
Don’t wait another day. Instead, schedule your confidential consultation now with a consumer rights attorney at Forrest LaMothe by calling us toll free at: 877-599-8890, or visit us at: forrestlamothe.com.