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Has a creditor or collection agency told you something that you believe is abusive or is in any way a violation of your civil rights or federal law? The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) can help you fight back against these unfair collection practices.

What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (commonly known as the FDCPA) is Title VIII of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. It came into effect in March 1978 and was mainly introduced with 3 objectives in mind:

  1. 1 Safeguard debtors from abusive debt collection practices.
  2. 2 Safeguard law-abiding debt collectors from unfair competition.
  3. 3 Encourage proper monitoring by the states to protect consumers.

Who does the FDCPA cover?

The FDCPA covers people who legally owe a consumer debt; debt collectors, who are those who try to collect debt on behalf of others; and any debt that has been accrued chiefly for personal, family, or household purposes. Business and other commercial debts are not covered under the FDCPA.

Do all debt collectors come under the FDCPA?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. In-house debt collection agencies don’t come under the FDCPA law. These are departments of banks that issued loans. In the initial stages of default, banks turn the accounts to in-house debt collection agencies to collect the money they are owed. When they fail to settle debts with consumers within 180 days, banks usually assign the accounts to third-party collection agencies.

Since the in-house collection agencies are part of banks, they don’t fall under FDCPA. Some states, like California and Florida, have laws similar to the FDCPA that do hold in-house collection agencies accountable.

What does the FDCPA prevent debt collectors from doing?

    The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from:

  1. 1 Acting as if they are affiliated with state or federal government.
  2. 2 Giving false information about the legal status of the account or any financial compensation that the collector is likely to receive.
  3. 3 Acting as if the agent is a licensed attorney if they are not.
  4. 4 Publishing lists of debtors who don’t agree to make payments.
  5. 5 Threatening debtors with arrest for unpaid debts.
  6. 6 Using deceptive means to get information about a debtor.
  7. 7 Falsely implying that a debtor’s property will be sold.
  8. 8 Telling debtors they have committed a criminal offense by not paying off debts.
  9. 9 Sending fake legal documents to the debtor.
  10. 10 Contacting the debtor using a postcard.
  11. 11 Soliciting a postdated check to initiate criminal prosecution.

What are the 7 most common FDCPA violations?

Often, collection agencies play tricks and go to great lengths to collect from you, and in the process violate the FDCPA. Below are some of the most common prohibited practices that debt collectors carry out:

  1. They misrepresent the actual debt amount, and demand more than you actually owe.
  2. They use obscene, abusive, or profane language while collecting the debt.
  3. They call excessively, reaching out to a debtor before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm, and even on Sundays. They call at work even after being asked to stop.
  4. They call someone other than the debtor in order to collect the debt.
  5. They threaten to sue, cease property, garnish wages, get you fired, or harm your credit score when they don’t actually have a means or intent to do so.
  6. They tell a third party, such as a family member, friend, or neighbor, about your debt without your permission, or contact a third party even after learning the debtor's contact information.
  7. They don’t disclose that the call is from a collection agency or tell you the name of the collection agency.

What are your rights under the FDCPA?

As a consumer, the FDCPA grants you rights that protect you from illegal debt collection practices. Read below to learn your rights::

1 Right to information:

While a debt collector contacts you for the very first time, they must inform you of your right to dispute the debt. The collector must tell you the actual debt amount, the name of the creditor, and the fact that if the debt is not disputed within 30 days, it will be considered valid. In addition, the collector must send the consumer the details of the debt in writing within five days of the initial telephone contact.

2 Debt verification:

If you have any doubts regarding the validity of the debt, you can ask the debt collection agency for written verification. However, you must request it within 30 days of the initial contact from the collector. When you do this, all collection attempts must stop until the debt is verified.

3 Cease communication letter:

If a collector is calling relentlessly, calling at your place of work, or harassing your friends or neighbors, a cease communication letter can be an effective way to stop the harassment. Once you send such a letter, the collector may only reach out to inform you about certain legal steps that they intend to take.

4 Privacy:

The FDCPA protects the privacy of debtors by prohibiting collection agencies from informing anyone other than authorized individuals, such as the debtor’s attorney or spouse, about the debt. They are not even permitted to leave details on answering machines due to the chance that they may be heard by unauthorized parties.

5 Protection from harassment:

Under the FDCPA, you have the right to protect yourself from any kind of violent or criminal initiative undertaken by collection agencies. The FDCPA further bans the use of profane, obscene, or offensive language

6 Multiple debts:

If you have multiple accounts that are being collected by the same agency, then they have to apply payments as per your instructions. Plus, they can’t apply payments to disputed debts.

Where should you report violations of the FDCPA?

You have the right to take action if you have fallen victim to creditor harassment. You can file a complaint against debt collection agencies with:

  1. 1 The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  2. 2 The office of the state’s attorney general
  3. 3 The Better Business Bureau (BBB)

You can also file a civil suit in state or federal court for a financial reward of up to $1,000, plus damages, for each incident.

How can OVLG’s FDCPA attorneys help?

You have the right to sue a collection agency if they violate the FDCPA while collecting debts. However, in order to do this, you need experienced legal guidance, because debt collectors know the FDCPA rules by heart, including the laws and loopholes. That makes it easy for them to manipulate you.

Our attorneys specialize in federal and state FDCPA laws, and can help you deal intelligently with abusive debt collectors. Over the years, we have achieved success by helping thousands of people put an end to harassing calls, threats, and other violent activities.

Our specialized FDCPA attorneys can help you:

  • 1 File a lawsuit against a debt collector who doesn’t comply with the FDCPA laws.
  • 2 Fight for justice and help you get a financial award of up to $1000 per violation.
  • 3 Receive financial compensation and for any damages suffered, as well as any attorneys fees you incur in the process.

FDCPA Update 2020

1 What is the new FDCPA rule all about?

The updated FDCPA states that debt collection agencies can text you, email you, or contact you on social media platforms like Facebook. They can send you unlimited texts for the purposes of collecting payments from you, although they must offer you a way to opt out of such communication. However, they can only call you seven times a week. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued these rules in October of 2020.

2 Why did CFPB issue this new FDCPA law?

The FDCPA was introduced in 1977. At that time, there were no cell phones, and no social media.So debt collectors could not connect with debtors through text messages or social media at that time.

At some point, debt collectors and consumer advocates felt that there was a need to change the law to reflect the new realities of communication in the 21st century.

3 Is this new FDCPA law good or bad?

Debt collectors are happy with the new amendment as they can contact consumers through email and social media platforms, which was not possible before. So they are getting one more option to contact or harass consumers. In that sense, the new FDCPA law is good for debt collectors.

Debt collection agencies are limited to calling consumers seven times a week for each debt, so consumers may get a little respite from collections calls.

The bad news is that most consumers have more than one debt, so they may get more than seven calls per week, as debt collectors call seven times for each account.

4 How can debt collectors manipulate the new FDCPA law?

Debt collection agencies can now contact consumers via email and text messages. They can reach consumers where they are. But the law has not specified how many times they can contact consumers via electronic communications. An aggressive debt collector’s messages can increase the cost of cell phone bills to consumers who do not have an unlimited text message plan.

However, the law says that consumers must be able to opt out of these communications. Now, there is doubt about how many debt collectors will follow this rule. They may ask consumers to make payments without explaining their rights or providing a means to opt out of burdensome communications.

Debt collection agencies can incorporate docusign elements in their emails and give consumers options for debt validation or for scheduling repayment plans.

5 What can consumers do to avoid text messages from collection agencies?

Debt collection agencies can send text messages and messages over social media to consumers. But consumers can opt-out of these communications. Social media platforms are a storehouse of personal information. Debt collection agencies can get access to vulnerable information and use it against consumers to harass them.

Consumers have three options.

  1. 1 They can ask debt collectors to validate the debt in writing. As per the FDCPA, debt collectors are required to give the following information in the debt validation letter:
    • 1 The total outstanding balance.
    • 2 The name of the debt collection agency.
    • 3 Steps that consumers can take regarding this debt.
  2. 2 They can ask collection agencies to contact them through some other ways.
    • 1 They can ask debt collection agencies to stop contacting them altogether with a cease and desist letter. However, many consumer advocates do not believe that this is the best option for fighting debt collectors. It is best to leave one line of communication open so that consumers can understand what debt collectors are going to do next. A cease and desist letter won't stop the collection process, so it is better to negotiate a settlement with collection agencies and avoid legal hassles in the future.
    • 2 If debt collection agencies call more than seven times a week, then that is considered harassment under the FDCPA. Also, consumers can explore state laws to learn their rights concerning debt, and how they can deal with these collection agencies. Consumers may also wish to seek out the advice of an attorney, such as the OVLG attorneys who are ready to help consumers fight collection abuse.


Frequently Asked Questions About the FDCPA

Often, the fuming voice on the other end of the line insists that you owe the debt, even though you don’t recognize either the debt or the collector.

So before you feel guilty and promise to pay it off, consider two probable scenarios:

  • It’s a con artist trying to scam you.
  • It could be a case of tagging, which is when a collector chases you for someone else’s debt.

Nowadays, such scenarios are creating problems for consumers, advocates, and regulators. So how can you be sure that the call you are getting is a genuine one? Well, here are 7 ways to find out.

  1. 1 Shift the conversation - Whether it is a real debt or a scam, the caller will ask questions. Don’t answer them. Instead, reply with questions of your own. A legitimate debt collector will answer your questions, provided that they’re relevant to the debt. Legally, the caller should provide you with sufficient details to support their claim, and you have every right to question the debt, the collector, and the collection agency. If you have doubts regarding the debt or the caller’s behavior, don’t provide any information about you.
  2. 2 Receive confirmation - Legally, a debt collector has five days from the first phone call to send you a written confirmation of the debt. Joseph H. Marman of Marman Law says that most collection agencies send this in advance and also spell out some of your rights as a debtor - disputing the debt, for instance.
  3. 3 Verify the collection agency - Plug the name of the company or the phone number into an internet search engine. Reach out to your state attorney general’s office or department of consumer affairs to try to find out if the collection agency is licensed to collect in your state. Check with the BBB to know if there have been complaints about the firm. Moreover, if the agent claims to be associated with an attorney’s office, check with the state bar or state office of court administration.
  4. 4 Make sure the debt is yours - Just because the collection agency is legit doesn’t make the debt yours. Collectors are human beings and are prone to mistakes. However, your credit report can provide you with a quick view of the debts you currently owe. Since your unsettled debts stay on your report for 7 years, you can pull up your credit report by either visiting AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling (877) 322-8228. If the debt isn’t listed there, there's a good chance that it's a scam, a case of mistaken identity, or a real debt that is past the statute of limitations for collections.
  5. 5 Check your state's statute of limitations (SOL) - If the debt is past the statute of limitations for debt collection in your state, the collector can’t force you to pay it. Even if the debt is sold to a new collection agency, you are not obligated to pay. It doesn’t matter who owns it, it can’t be listed on your history or even used to calculate your FICO score. And while the collection agency could still sue you for the debt, they would not have grounds to win the suit.
  6. 6 Ask to verify the debt - After you have received a written document claiming you owe the debt, you have 30 days to request the collection agency verify it. Until the collection agency verifies the debt, it has to stop all collection attempts. However, ideally you should arrange to receive the reply in a post office box or in your office to protect your identity.
  7. 7 Make sure the proof is legit - The response that you receive from the collection agency could take many shapes. It could be a copy of the original credit agreement, a copy of the charge-off statement or an invoice from the original creditor. Or, it could simply be information about the debt – the original creditor’s name, the account number, charge-off amount, and current balance. However, to strengthen their claim, the collection agency should at least show you the last four digits of your SSN.

Financial experts and attorneys say that to register a complaint that a debt collector has violated the FDCPA, you’ve got to meet the following four legal requirements:

  • 1 You must be a consumer.
  • 2 Your debt should be a consumer one. Simply put, your financial obligations have to be your own, such as personal debts, your family’s debts, or other debts attached to your household. Business debt does not qualify.
  • 3 Debt collectors must have contacted you for payments.
  • 4 Debt collectors must have violated the FDCPA or similar state statutes, such as California’s Rosenthal statute.

There are 4 requirements for a debt collection case, according to attorneys who have won them.

The requirements are:

  1. 1 The person who wants to file a lawsuit against a debt collector should be a consumer.
  2. 2 The debt should be consumer debt: personal, family, or household. Business debt will not be entertained.
  3. 3 The suit should be filed against a collection agency or other debt collector.
  4. 4 The FDCPA should have been violated by the debt collector.

A recent ruling by the Supreme Court says that the one year deadline for filing a FDCPA lawsuit starts from the time the violation has taken place, not the time it is discovered. So if a debt collector violates the FDCPA, make sure you file your lawsuit quickly, because the clock has already started running.

There are many actions that can be considered a violation of the law by debt collectors. Some of them are FDCPA violations; others are violations of state statutes.

Basically, FDCPA violations are governed by the principle of strict liability, which means that debt collectors can be held liable for violations regardless of their intent. In other words, they don’t have to know that they violated the law to be held liable for violating that law.

The FDCPA stipulates a fine of $1000 on the debt collectors for each violation, plus attorney’s fees. As a result, a lot of debt collectors have had to shell out penalties amounting to $100,000 or more.

Under many state statutes, you can file what legal eagles call torts, which are just civil causes of action. A tort might be the intentional infliction of emotional distress, the grounds for which might be using profane language against you in public, or engaging in deliberate defamation to extract money from you that lead to emotional distress. Emotion plays quite a role in these types of collection cases, which have become quite rampant, especially in the form of harassment over the phone.

Apart from the intentional infliction of emotional distress, you may be able to bring a tort based on ignorant or negligent infliction of emotional distress at the hands of unscrupulous debt collectors. In other words, the inflicted distress doesn’t necessarily have to be intentional to be tortable.

Debt collectors sometimes file false charges against you that they can’t prove in the court of law. In such situations, the FDCPA may provide you with additional legal recourse against abusive or manipulative debt collectors.

As soon as you get a debt collection letter, reply to it. Any delay in responding to collection letters may make the matter worse, since debt collectors can get more aggressive with each passing day. Never ignore collection letters, or calls from debt collectors.

As far as collection letters are concerned, it is very important to ensure you understand what it says before replying. A proper collection letter should provide you with the essential information related to your debt. For instance, it should include the name of the original creditor, how much you owe, the means to make the repayments, and how to dispute any discrepancy.

Debt collection letters may contain wrong, misleading, or false information. Frequently, that information is used to create confusion and threaten debtors. But the good news is that debtors can sue a debt collector for such malpractice.

  1. 1 You can sue a harassing debt collector in a state court.

    If you believe that the debt collector has violated the FDCPA, you can file a lawsuit against the debt collector in your state court. However, filing the case is not enough; you have to prove that the debt collector has harassed you. If you can prove that, you are eligible to collect $1000 in statutory damages per violation; more if you can establish that you have suffered harm from the violations.

    Though this is a time consuming process, and you should retain an attorney for the best chance of success, but you can win significant monetary compensation if you win.

  2. 2 You can file a lawsuit without an attorney in the small claims court.

    If you don’t want to hire an attorney, then you can bring your case to small claims court. You just need to file a simple court document to file the case. The process will usually take less than 2 months to complete. It’s a faster, less complicated process, but the downside is that there are limits on how much compensation you can seek in small claims court.

  3. 3 You can file a report with your state’s Attorney General

    A harassed consumer can contact their state’s attorney general to report the violation. Some states enforce the FDCPA, or similar laws passed by their own state, to protect consumers. So, if the state attorney general gets a violation report against a debt collector multiple times, they might file a suit against the debt collector on behalf of the state.

  4. 4 You can report the violation to a government agency

    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the FDCPA. Thus, you can contact the FTC to report a debt collector who has harassed you or otherwise violated the FDCPA. You can submit your complaint online using the FTC's Complaint Assistant website https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/.

    Another agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) also works as a problem solver. If a consumer files a complaint against a creditor, the CFPB tries to find a solution to the problem. You can submit your complaint here: www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint.

    Most of the time, when creditors can't collect debts on their own, they can contact the collection agencies, who buy the debt form creditors at a discounted rate. Not all collection agencies harass consumers to collect on their debt, but some collection agencies apply unethical tactics like calling family members, co-workers or employers for the money. Sometimes, they threaten or use abusive language to coerce the debtors into paying. These tactics are violations of the FDCPA. If they happen to you, consult an experienced debt collection attorney to discuss the matter and get the right advice. Consultations are usually free, and attorneys are required to keep your information confidential as well.

Well, they can, but their times are limited.

The FDCPA says debt collectors can call you from Monday to Saturday between 8 am and 9 pm. On Sunday, they may call you between 1 pm and 5 pm. The good news is that the FDCPA prohibits collection agencies from calling you on Sunday at all if you specifically instruct them not to do so. Likewise, if you tell them not to call you on certain holidays, they must comply. Moreover, in some states, collection calls during the official holidays are strictly prohibited.

If collections agencies call you outside the allowed hours, they are in violation of the FDCPA.

Ask the debt collection agency to call you during the week if you genuinely owe a debt; it’s better to pay off valid debts as soon as possible, as collection agencies won’t stop chasing you until you do.

If you don’t have sufficient money to satisfy your creditors, then try to settle your unpaid accounts through a professional debt relief company or a law firm like OVLG. The added advantage of working with a law firm is that aside from settling your debts, you can get legal advice from expert debt attorneys.

The law firm or a debt relief company can negotiate with collectors with an understanding of what you can afford, and helping to lower your payoff amount. It will help you manage debts smartly, save money, and end annoying collection calls—on Sundays and the other 6 days of the week.

As mentioned before, the FDCPA allows collection agencies to call debtors on Sundays between 1 pm and 5 pm. However, some collection agencies don’t follow those regulations, and call debtors at night. In that case, debtors can contact OVLG’s experienced FDCPA attorneys to resist unfair debt collection practices. Our attorneys can help them sue collection agencies that violate the FDCPA and get a financial reward of $1000 per violation.

Unfortunately, no. The FDCPA doesn’t give you any protection regarding this matter. If you find a collection account on your credit report, then you can ask the collection agency to validate it by some other means, but they have no legal obligation to do so. That’s because they did not initiate communication with you, which is required by the FDCPA. A collection account on your credit report does not fall under the definition of initial communication as laid out by the FDCPA, and therefore doesn’t trigger your validation rights.

If you’re lucky, the collection agency will validate the debt after receiving your written request. But they are not bound to do so by law.

Simply put, no. Since your debt validation rights are not triggered when you find a collection account on your credit report, you don’t have a legal basis for a tort. Neither the FDCPA nor the FCRA provide such a basis.

Additionally, the FDCPA doesn’t require debt collection agencies to work with you at that point. Even if the collection agency sends you validation documents and you dispute them, the collection agency has no requirement to provide further documentation at that point.

The FDCPA doesn’t specify the number of times a collection agency can call you. However, collectors can’t call you continuously just to harass you.

The FDCPA doesn’t allow the garnishment of federal benefits. However, debt collectors can nevertheless garnish your federal benefits under special circumstances. If you owe alimony, child support, federal tax, or student loans, collection agencies can garnish your federal benefits.

The FDCPA doesn’t allow debt collectors to garnish wages directly. The debt collectors must first win a judgement against the debtor. That means they must file a lawsuit and serve the debtor by summons. They have to fight and win the lawsuit, and receive a wage garnishment order from the court. Only then can they send the court order to your employer and garnish your wages. At that point, they can even levy your bank account.

When you have multiple debts, you can decide which debts will be paid off first. When you make payments to debt collectors, the FDCPA requires them to apply payments to the debts of your choice - if you tell them. You should. When you do, they can’t apply the payments based on their own whims and fancies - or, more to the point, whatever will allow them to charge you the most money. Debt collectors often apply your payments to the lowest interest debts so as to add additional interest to high-interest debts. That inflates their profit margin - at your cost.


Video transcript on: How can you use FDCPA to dispute and eliminate collection accounts?

Hi,

Do you want to eliminate debt collection accounts from your credit report? Are you fed up with the incessant collection calls and want to get rid of them? Come, let us talk about how to do that using FDCPA.

“FDCPA states that debt collection agencies have to send the consumer a written notice containing the debt amount, creditor’s name, and a statement that unless the consumer, within 30 days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector”.

So check the information provided by the debt collector and find out if it’s correct. If it isn’t, then dispute the collection accounts and send a Cease and Desist letter to stop collection calls.

Send a letter to credit bureaus and request them to remove the inaccurate listing from your credit report within 30 days. If you have already paid off the debt, then request the creditor to update the account status as ‘paid as agreed’ or ‘paid in full’.

Even if the debt is valid, there are a few restrictions imposed by the FDCPA on the debt collectors and you can sue them if they break the laws.

For example, you can sue a debt collector if he/she calls you before 8 am or after 9 pm. You can also take legal steps if the debt collector abuses you, misrepresent facts, collects more than the actual amount, or contact you after sending a Cease and Desist letter.

Call (800)-530-6854 if you need assistance to deal with debt collection abuse. We can help you to fight with abusive debt collectors and earn $1000 as fine.

By
(Guest Attorney)
San Francisco, California
Updated On May 18, 2021

Mike Cardoza was trained as a trial attorney in the U.S. Marine Corps and has tried countless cases in federal and state courtrooms. Mike is a Consumer Financial Protection Attorney and a former senior executive of a debt-buying company, a debt collection agency, and a major regional high-volume debt collection law firm. He now brings his experience and skill to help consumers exclusively...

Last Updated on: Tue, 18 May 2021