Debt Collection in Alaska - The Laws And The Rights

Alaskans carry the highest credit card balance - $7,089 - while the nation's average stands at $5,525, according to Experian.

The scenario is the same in the case of mortgage debt and medical debt, where Alaskans are ranking higher than the nationwide average.

Alaskans have about $15,600 more outstanding mortgage debt than the national average, and the mean medical debt in Alaska is $1,363, nearly twice the nationwide average.

The reason for such high average figures is the State's relatively higher cost of living, which compels its residents to endure more-than-average debt and struggle to pay it off (14.1% of Alaskans have medical debt that has gone to collections).

Are you an indebted Alaskan defaulting on your payments, stressing about what your debt collectors might do? Find out your rights and the remedies available.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about debt collection in Alaska.

Debt Collection Laws in Alaska

As a debtor, you have some State sanctioned boundaries that debt collectors cannot cross. You have the right to take legal action against them if they do.

Here are the debt collection laws in Alaska that prevent collectors from using unfair and deceptive practices when collecting a debt -

Harassment - A Big No

Debt collectors cannot resort to harassing or abusing you when attempting to collect a debt. For example, a collector cannot threaten violence, use obscene and profanity, or call you repeatedly.

False Statements

Debt collection laws in Alaska prohibit collectors from using false, misleading, or deceptive statements to collect a debt.

Examples of such information include:

  • Claiming that they have taken legal action against you when in reality they haven't
  • Threatening to seize your property or your wages without any legal authority to do so
  • Pretending to be an attorney or a law firm
  • Stating or implying that failure to repay the debt will result in imprisonment or criminal charges
  • Suggesting that documents are legal when in reality, they are not

There is A Time & A Place

Debt collectors cannot call you whenever and wherever they like.

For example, a collector cannot call you at work if you explicitly tell them that your employer prohibits it or at any other place that the collector knows or should know might be inconvenient for you.

In addition, a collector is legally not allowed to contact you at certain times if you don't agree to it, including contacting you before 8:00 AM and after 9:00 PM.

Third-Party Contacts

If you hire an attorney to represent your case and a debt collector knows about it, they must contact your attorney, not you.

If you don't have an attorney, a collector can only talk to third parties to inquire about your home address, telephone number, and place of employment.

However, collectors cannot contact third parties more than once or tell anyone other than your spouse or attorney that you owe any debts.

A Collector Cannot Contact You If You Don’t Want Them to

A debt collector cannot continue to contact you if you notify them in writing that you don't want them to.

However, if you give them a no-contact notice, collectors can still reach you to inform you before taking some action, such as filing a lawsuit against you.

Written Notification

A debt collector is legally obligated to send you written notification of the amount of the debt and the creditor you owe money to within five days after the initial communication.

The collector must also include a validation notice along with the written notification. The information should contain a statement informing you that if you do not dispute the debt within 30 days, in writing, the collector will assume the debt to be valid.

What Happens If You Dispute the Debt

If you dispute the debt within the allotted time, the debt collector cannot attempt to collect it until they mail you the appropriate debt verification documents.

They can resume their collection activities if the documents prove you owe the debt.

Any payment you make must be directed towards your chosen debt if you owe more than one debt. A collector cannot apply your payment to any debt you have disputed.

Source: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

Alaska Debt Collection Statute of Limitations

If you have a few years old debts, it may have crossed the statute of limitations, and your collector cannot initiate legal proceedings against you.

The statute of limitations is when a debt collector has the right to sue you after your debt first fell into collections legally.

Different types of debt have other year limits, as listed below.

Mortgage 3 Years
Medical 3 Years
Auto Loan 4 Years
State Tax 6 Years
Credit Card 3 Years

The statute of limitations clock usually starts on your first missed payment date. After the clock expires, collectors lose the legal right to sue or threaten you for your debt.

However, if the debt collector believes the limitations have not yet passed, they may still initiate legal proceedings.

Consult an attorney if your creditor or a collection agency sues you or threatens to sue you after the time limit expires. They can help you through the process of dismissing your case and ensure your rights are protected.

What to Do When You Get Contacted by a Debt Collector

Getting contacted by a debt collector can be intimidating. But remember that it's not the time to stress and think about the worst but to find a solution.

Things you should do when you get contacted

  • Ask the collector for their name, address, and phone number.
  • Find out the amount you owe, including any fees such as interest or collection costs, what the debt is for, the time you incurred the debt, and the creditor's name.
  • Record the call. Keep the messages if the collector sends texts or leaves voicemails with abusive language.
  • If you decide not to talk to the collector, make a no-contact request in writing. (If you want to keep tabs on your debt or negotiate a settlement, ceasing communication will not be in your best interest.)
  • Tell the collector why if you feel the debt isn't valid or you don't owe it. If your reason is legitimate, the collector might voluntarily cease collection.

Things you should not do when you get contacted

  • Don't share personal information like your bank account numbers, Social Security number, or the amount or value of your property. Debt collection agencies can later use the information to collect from you. You can provide basic information about your financial troubles.
  • Don't make any payment in good faith. Collectors might try to persuade you to make minimal payments, saying that it will prevent them from suing you or it will help your credit. But the truth is, your payment will stretch the statute of limitations.
  • Don't say, "I know I owe this and will pay you as soon as I can," or "I can start paying you next month." Your acknowledgment of the obligation might revive the statute of limitations.
  • Try not to lose your cool. If you later decide to initiate debt settlement negotiation or file a lawsuit for FDCPA violation against your creditor, using profanity, screaming, or getting hostile, will hurt your case.

If you're experiencing problems with your collector, here are some sample letters you can use to communicate your concern -

What Should You Do If A Collector Breaks Laws

Debt collection agencies motivated by their righteousness may often resort to aggressive debt collection actions that violate the FDCPA.

If you face a collector who resorts to such action, here are some things you can do -

Report the Violation to Your State Attorney General

You can contact the State Attorney General's office to receive guidance on a possible FDCPA lawsuit and any possible state law actions against the debt collector.

Sue the Debt Collector in Alaska State Court

You can file a lawsuit against the debt collector in your state court.

You will need to prove that the collector violated the FDCPA in court. If successful, you will be able to collect $1,000 in statutory damages and possibly more if you suffer physical or emotional harm due to the violations.

But remember that filing a lawsuit is the most time-consuming and lengthy of all remedies.

Go to a Small Claims Court in Alaska

You can plead your case in small claims courts if you don't want to go through the hassle of a full-blown lawsuit in a state court.

Such courts do not demand an attorney and will offer you one shortened hearing to argue your case to a judge.

You need to file a simple court document to initiate the case. Hearings are usually held in less than two months after you file the lawsuit.

After the hearing, the judge may either make an on-the-spot ruling or mail you the judgment at a later date.

However, there's a disadvantage to using small claims courts. If you win your case in a Small Claims Court in Alaska, the amount of reparations you can get is limited to $10,000.

File A Complaint to A Government Agency

Another option is to report your case to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC). FTC is a government agency in charge of overseeing debt collector actions and ensuring that the FDCPA does not get violated.

To file a complaint to the FTC, visit here.

You can also contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The bureau will take and pass your complaint to your creditor, and then they will work with you and the creditor to find a solution to the problem.

To submit your complaint to the CFPB, visit here.

Use Their Violation Against Them During Debt Settlement Negotiations

If you are considering debt settlement and the collector violates the debt collection laws in Alaska. You can use the violation as leverage.

This strategy often works because collectors know that if you file a lawsuit, it can be costly to defend and may result in a judgment against them.

However, your leverage's strength depends on your case's strength. Suppose you have vital facts proving a violation (multiple emails, letters, phone call recordings, testimony of coworkers who received phone calls, etc.). In that case, you can easily turn the table in your favor during debt settlement negotiations.

Alaska Debt Relief Options

If you're struggling with unpaid debt, in Alaska, there are several debt relief options that you can try, like debt management, debt settlement, debt consolidation, and bankruptcy.

Since each option follows a specific approach, it is best to learn about each and choose the one that suits you.

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