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FDCPA attorneys: Fight back against abusive debt collection practices

Has a creditor or collection agency told you something that is abusive or anyway, a violation of your civil and federal rights? The FDCPA can help you fight back against all unfair collection practices.

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What is the 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. Safeguard debtors from abusive debt collection practices.
  2. Safeguard law-abiding debt collectors from unfair competition.
  3. Encourage proper state monitoring for consumer protection.

Whom does the FDCPA cover?

The FDCPA laws cover the consumer, a person who legally owes a consumer debt; debt collectors, who try to collect debt on behalf of others; and any debt that has been accrued chiefly for personal, family, or household purposes. However, 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 the banks that issued loans. In the initial stages of default, banks turn the accounts to in house debt collection agencies for collecting money. When they fail to settle debts with consumers within 180 days, banks assign the accounts to third-party collection agencies.

Since the in house collection agencies are part of banks only, so they don’t fall under the FDCPA rules

What debt collectors can’t do as per the FDCPA laws

  1. Acting as if the debt collection agency is affiliated with the federal government or state government.
  2. Giving false information about the legal status of the account or any financial compensation that the collector is likely to get.
  3. Acting as if he or she is a licensed attorney.
  4. Publishing a list of debtors who don’t agree to make payments.
  5. Threatening that debtors will be arrested for unpaid debts.
  6. Using deceptive means to get information about a debtor.
  7. Falsely implying that a debtor’s property will be sold unless such action is legal.
  8. Informing debtor that he has done a criminal offense by not paying off debts.
  9. Sending fake legal documents to the debtor.
  10. Contacting the debtor using a postcard.
  11. Solicit a postdated check to initiate criminal prosecution.

What are the 7 most common FDCPA violations?

Often, collection agencies play many tricks and go to any extent possible to collect from you, and thus violate the FDCPA. Below are some of the most common prohibited practices that debt collectors carry out:

  1. Misrepresentation of the actual debt amount (often demanded more than what you actually owe).
  2. Use of obscene, abusive, or profane language while collecting the debt.
  3. Excessive phone calls or reaching out to a debtor before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm, and even on Sundays. Calls at the workplace even after being asked to stop calling at work.
  4. Calling someone else other than the actual debtor in order to collect the debt.
  5. Threaten to sue, cease property, garnish wages, initiate job loss, or spoil credit score when the collectors don’t aim to do so.
  6. Informing a third party entity (family member, friend, or neighbor) about your debt without your permission or contacting a third party even after knowing the debtor's contact information.
  7. Not disclosing that the call was from a collection agency (known as no ID) or the name of the collection agency (Known as Foti violation).

What are your rights under the FDCPA?

As a consumer, you have some rights under the FDCPA laws to protect yourself from illegal debt collection practices. Read below to be familiar with what rights you have:

Right to information:

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

Debt verification:

If you have any doubts regarding the debt, you can request the debt collection agency a written verification of the debt. However, you have to request within 30 days of the initial contact from the collector, and all collection attempts must stop until the debt is verified.

Cease communication letter:

If a collector is calling relentlessly, calling at your place of employment, or harassing your friends or neighbors, a cease communication letter can be effective to stop all harassing phone calls. After this, the collector can only reach out to inform you about certain legal steps that he intends to take.

Privacy:

The FDCPA protects the privacy of the debtors by prohibiting the collection agencies from informing anyone other than the authorized individuals (debtor’s attorney or the spouse) about the debt. Even the collection agencies should not leave any detail over the answering machine as chances of eavesdropping increase.

Protection from harassment:

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

Multiple debts:

If you have multiple collection accounts that are being collected by the same debt collection 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 in case you have fallen victim of creditor harassment. You can choose any of the following options to file a complaint against a debt collection agency:

  1. You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  2. You can file a complaint with the office of the state’s attorney general
  3. You can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  4. File a civil suit in your state or federal court for a financial reward up to $1,000 including damages

How FDCPA attorneys of OVLG can help?

You have the right to sue a collection agency if they violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) while collecting debts. However, in order to do this, you need experienced legal guidance because debt collectors know the FDCPA rules by heart. They know the laws and the loopholes very well. So it’s easy for them to manipulate you.

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

Our specialized FDCPA attorneys can help you:

  • To file a lawsuit against a debt collector who doesn’t comply with the FDCPA laws.
  • Fight for the injustice and help you get a financial award of up to $1000.
  • Receive financial compensation and for any damages suffered and the attorney fee.

FDCPA - Frequently asked questions

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

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

It’s an attempt to scam you out by a con artist.

Else, it could be a case of tagging, where a collector chases you for someone else’s debt.

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

  1. Shift the conversation - Whether it is a real debt or a scam, the caller will ask questions. Reply to him/her with counter questions. A legitimate debt collector will answer your questions. Legally, the caller should provide you with sufficient details to back his/her claim and you may certainly question the debt, the collector, and the collection agency. However, if you have doubts regarding the debt or the caller’s behavior, don’t give out or confirm any information about you.
  2. Receive confirmation - Legally, a debt collector has five days from the first phone call to send you a written confirmation of the debt. As per Joseph H. Marman of Marman Law, most collection agencies send this in advance and also spell out some of your rights as a debtor – disputing the debt, for instance.
  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 the dept. of consumer affairs and 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 out with the state bar or the office of the court administration.
  4. Know if the debt is your - 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 are currently owing. Since your unsettled debts stay on your report for 7 years, you can pull out your credit report 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. Check your state's statute of limitations (SOL) - If the debt is past the statute of limitations of your state, the collector can’t force you to pay the same. Even if the debt is sold to a new collection agency, you are not obliged to pay. It doesn’t matter who owns it, it can’t be listed on your history or even can’t be used to calculate your score. The collection agency can sue you for the debt; however, they would never win.
  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 to verify the same. Until the collection agency verifies the debt, it has to hold all collection attempts. However, try to receive the reply in a post box or in your office to protect your identity.
  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 of FDCPA violation against a certain debt buyer, i.e., a debt collector, you’ve got to fulfill the following four legal requirements:

  • You must be a consumer.
  • Your debt should be a consumer one. Simply put, your financial obligations have to be your own - personal, or they could be your family’s or attached to your household. In this case, any business debt whatsoever doesn’t qualify.
  • Debt collectors must have contacted you for payments.
  • Debt collectors must have violated either the FDCPA or California’s Rosenthal statute (a variant of FDCPA enacted in California) or any other statutes.

As per the successful attorneys, there are 4 requirements for a debt collection case.

The requirements are:

  • The person who wants to file a lawsuit against a debt collector should be a consumer.
  • The debt should be personal, family, or household debt (any consumer debt). A business debt will not be entertained.
  • It should be a collection agency or a debt collector against whom you want to file a lawsuit.
  • The FDCPA law should have been violated by the debt collector.

Primarily, there are lots of actions that can be considered an alleged violation of the statutes by the debt collectors. This could be the FDCPA or state statutes. Basically, FDCPA falls under the strict liability statute. This implies that if debt collectors violate the Act, they will be held liable for the same. The FDCPA stipulates a fine of $1000 penalty on the rogue debt collectors on grounds of its violations, including attorney’s fees. As a result, a lot of debt collectors had to shell out penalties amounting to $100,000 or more.

Speaking about the state statutes, you can use what the legal eagles call it as “torts”. The term torts mean civil causes of action. This could be intentional infliction of emotional stress or using profane language against you in public or deliberate defamation to extract money from you, leading to emotional distress. A lot of emotion plays a role in this type of collection cases and they are quite rampant nowadays, especially telephonic harassment.

Apart from that, you could also suffer due to ignorant or negligent emotional distress at the hands of the unscrupulous debt collectors. Even if your case isn’t quite as severe as the others, that too can be considered as a negligent way of collecting debt payments. Moreover, debt collectors at times file false charges that they can’t prove in the court of law. In such situations, the FDCPA would protect you from being sued because of an abusive or manipulative process employed by the debt collectors.

When you face these collection challenges, then either you could opt for the invasion of privacy or file a defamation lawsuit (or libel) against the perpetrators.

As soon as you get a debt collection letter, make sure to reply to that at the earliest. Any delay in responding to collection letters may turn the matter worse for you since debt collectors get agitated and anxious with each passing day. Never ignore collection letters or calls.

As far as collection letters are concerned, it is very important to run a check of what has been written on it before replying. A proper collection letter should provide you with all the essential information related to your debt. For instance, it should mention the name of the original creditor, how much you owe, what are the means to make the repayments, or to dispute any discrepancy.

Still, at times, debt collection letters contain wrong, misleading, or false information. These kinds of information are mainly used to create confusion and threaten debtors. But the good news is that a court, in the recent past, has pronounced a judgment where a debtor can sue a debt collector for such malpractices.

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

    If you believe that the debt collector has violated the FDCPA Act, 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 had harassed you.

    If you can prove, you are eligible to collect about $1000 in statutory damages. The compensation can be more if you have suffered harm from the violations. You need to appoint an attorney to represent your lawsuit.

    Though this is a time taking process, yet you can get good monetary compensation once you win the lawsuit successfully.

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

    If a consumer doesn't want to hire an attorney, then the person can consider the small claims court to argue the case. The consumer needs to file a simple court document to process the case.

    The process will take less than 2 months to finish after the lawsuit is filed.

    Well, the small claims court provides less monetary compensation.

  3. You can report against the debt collectors to the SAG (State Attorney General)

    A harassed consumer can contact the state attorney general to report the violation. Some states follow the FDCPA Act strictly to protect consumers. So, if the state attorney general gets a violation report against a debt collector multiple times, the lawsuit might be filed on behalf of the state.

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

    The mission of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is to provide consumer protection from harassment. FTC also ensures that the FDCPA act is not violated by any debt collectors. Thus, you can contact FTC to report against the debt collector who had harassed you or violated the FDCPA rules. You can submit your complaint online using the FTC's Complaint Assistant website www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

    Another agency, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), also works as a problem solver. If a consumer complains 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 the debts on their own, they can contact the collection agencies (debt buyers). Not all collection agencies harass consumers to get the money from the debtors. But, some collection agencies apply unethical tactics like calling family members, co-workers, or boss, for the money. Sometimes, they threaten or use abusive language to compel the debtors to pay back the required amount. These tactics are considered as a violation of the FDCPA Act. In that case, you need to consult with an experienced debt collection attorney to discuss the matter and get the right advice. Consultations will not charge you a fee and keep your information confidential as well.

Well, when you have unpaid debts but don’t have a penny to pay off them, they become a burden on your shoulder. Debt collection agencies start chasing you for payments every other day. They call you, send letters, and threaten to file a lawsuit against you.

As per the FDCPA rules and regulations, debt collectors can call you during the weekdays (that is from Monday to Saturday) between 8 am and 9 pm. But on Sunday, debt collectors can call you between 1 pm and 5 pm. They can’t call you beyond that time.

FDCPA laws allow collection agencies to call you between 1 pm and 5 pm. If you’re not comfortable receiving collection calls on Sunday, then you can ask debt collectors to not call you on that particular day. As per the FDCPA guidelines, collection agencies can’t call you on Sunday if they are specifically instructed not to do so. Even collection agencies can’t call you during Christmas or on any other holidays if you give them a prior notification about it. Moreover, in some states, collection calls during the official holidays are strictly prohibited.

Ask the debt collection agency to call you during the weekdays if you genuinely owe something. If the debt is valid, it’s better to pay it off as soon as possible. Otherwise, collection agencies won’t stop chasing you for payments.

If you don’t have sufficient money to satisfy your creditors, then you can 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 apart from the settlement of your debts, you can get legal advice and suggestions from the debt attorneys.

The law firm or a debt relief company can negotiate with collectors keeping your affordability in mind, and help to lower your payoff amount. It will help you manage debts smartly, save money, as well as get rid of collection calls on Sundays and other 6 days of the week.

As mentioned before, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows collection agencies to call debtors on Sundays between 1 pm and 5 pm. However, some collection agencies don’t follow FDCPA regulations and call debtors at night. In that case, debtors can contact OVLG’s experienced FDCPA attorneys to revolt against unfair debt collection practices. The attorneys can help them to sue collection agencies due to the violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and get a financial reward of $1000.

Unfortunately, the FDCPA law doesn’t give you any protection regarding this matter. If you find a collection account on your credit report, then you can request the collection agency to validate it. However, the collection agency is not bound to validate it. This is because there was no initial communication between you and the collection agency, which is required by the FDCPA. Discovering a collection account on your credit report is not considered as a form of initial communication by the FDCPA. It doesn’t generate your validation rights. You have to understand this fact.

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

Since your debt validation rights are not triggered after you find a collection account on your credit report, you can’t execute any legal rights in this case. FDCPA law doesn’t mandate that they have to send any documents to you. Even if the collection agency sends documents and you’re not happy with it, then you can dispute with them directly. However, the collection agency can avoid giving you further documentation. And, you can’t file a lawsuit against the collection agency due to this reason. Both the FDCPA and FCRA don’t mandate such a requirement.

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 garnish your federal benefits under special circumstances. If you owe alimony, child support, federal tax, or student loans, then collection agencies can garnish your federal benefits.

The FDCPA doesn’t allow debt collectors to garnish wages directly. The debt collectors have to file a lawsuit and serve summons first. They have to contest, win the lawsuit, and receive a wage garnishment order from the court. Then only they can send the court order to your employer and garnish your wage. After receiving judgment from the court, the debt collectors 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, they need to apply payments to the debts of your choice. They can’t apply the payments based on their whims and fancies. They can’t also apply the payments to what you don’t owe. The FDCPA has implemented this law to safeguard the rights of consumers. The debt collectors often apply the payments to the lowest interest debts and add additional interest to high-interest debts to inflate their profit margin. This FDCPA law prevents debt collectors from abusing consumers financially.


Last Updated on: Tue, 16 Jun 2020