As A Debtor
article was compiled by Gary Edwards, a Westminster Lawyer, and describes
how some collection agencies break the law, often intentionally without
the knowledge of the consumer. This article aims to inform you of those
laws to better arm yourself in the face of unscrupulous agencies.)
If you use
credit cards, have taken out a personal loan that you own money on, or
are paying a home mortgage, you are defined as a "debtor." If
you fall behind when repaying your creditors, or if an error is made on
your accounts, it is likely you will be contacted by what is known as
a debt collector.
know that in this situation, the US Fair Debt Collection
Practices Act requires that debt collectors treat you fairly by
adhering to certain debt collection rules. What follows is a number of
answers to commonly asked questions about your rights under the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act.
kind of debts are covered under the Act?
Personal, family, and household debts are covered under the Fair Debt
Collection Practices Act. This includes money owed on automobile purchases,
for medical care, or for credit card accounts.
is a collection agency or debt collector?
A debt collector is a person or agency that is not the creditor, whose
business it is to collect debts owed to others. Under a recent (1986)
amendment to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, this can also include
attorneys who collect debts.
will a debt collector contact you?
A collector or agency uses a variety of different contact methods, including
mail, telephone, fax or in person. An important rule to remember, however,
is that a debt collector may not contact you via telephone at unreasonable
times or places, such as before eight o'clock a.m. or after nine o'clock
p.m. unless you have previously agreed. A collector also may not contact
you at work if the collector is aware that your employer disapproves of
else can the debt collector speak to about my debt?
Other than your attorney, a collector may speak to no one. If you do not
have an attorney, a collector may contact other people, but only as a
means to discover where you work and live. They are NOT to speak about
your debts. In fact, as a rule, collectors are prohibited from contacting
such third parties more than once.
must a debt collector tell you about the debt?
Within five days after first contact, a collector must send you a written
notice of the total amount of money owing, the name of the creditor, and
what avenue of action you may take if you believe you do not owe the money
or a mistake has been made.
debt collection practices are prohibited by law?
Debt collectors must abide by certain rules. For example, debt collectors
may not oppress, abuse, or harass anyone.
are some examples of tactics debt collectors may not take:
a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit
you with obscene or profane language
harm against your person, property or public reputation
- Call excessively
to the point of harassment
- Call you
without first identifying him/herself as a collector
agencies also are prohibited from using false statements when collecting
Here are some examples of what a debt collection
agency representative cannot do:
falsely that they are attorneys or represent the government
that you have committed a crime of some sort
themselves falsely as working for a credit bureau
- Give you
false information as to the total amount of your debt
you into thinking that papers they have sent to you are legal forms
when they are in fact not
debt collectors are strictly constrained as to what they can say to you,
so often using a telephone tape recorder can help you obtain evidence.
You must mention, however, that the conversation is being taped, in most
debt collector cannot say the following things:
- that you
will be arrested if payment is not received
- that assets
may be seized, wages garnished or property sold unless the collection
agency intends to do so, and it is legal (it rarely is)
- that a
lawsuit will be filed against you, as this is not legal
should I do if I feel a debt collector may have violated the law?
It is your right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within
one (1) year from the date you believe the violation takes place. If you
win, you may recover money for damages, including court costs and attorney
a free, confidential debt consultation, please contact an Affinity representative