What Are FDCPA Violations?
Despite your efforts, your overdue bills are now in a collector’s hands. You have gotten letters in the mail and calls on your phone, but have collectors violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act? Don’t stand idly by while unscrupulous collectors infringe on your legal rights. You could have a legal case on your hands, one that entitles you to damages. FDCPA violations are illegal actions that debt collectors take against debtors that are deemed unfair, abusive or deceptive. While you may have unpaid debts, that does not open you to illegal harassment.
When Can Debt Collectors Call?
Currently, debt collectors may only call debtors between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. That said, you can agree to them contacting you before or after those hours. Have you ever received a call at work from a debt collector? This practice is illegal if you forbid receiving calls at the office.
Regarding the means of communication during permissible hours, collectors may only use email messages, phone calls or text messages or send a letter through the mail. Any other medium is a violation of FDCPA.
Are Debt Collectors Allowed To Contact Others About Your Debt?
If they cannot reach you during permitted hours, collections agents may reach out to your spouse, family members or friends. In most cases, collectors may only speak with you and your spouse about your debt. If you work with an attorney to get a handle on your debt or help protect your FDCPA rights, a collector can contact your legal representative.
That said, bill collectors reserve the right to contact your friends and family to ask for your home phone number, physical address and place of employment. Even then, a collections agency may not contact those closest to you more than once. Otherwise, it’s a violation of FDCPA.
When Legally Contacted, What Must a Collector Tell You About Your Debt?
After initially reaching out to you according to the FDCPA, debt collectors have five days to physically mail you a validation notice. On that notice, you should see your debt total, the debt’s creditor, and actions you can take if you feel the amount belongs to someone else.
What Should You Do If You Feel the Debt Is Someone Else’s?
Maybe you feel that the creditor contacted you in error. You can respond that you think the collector sent the validation notice to the wrong person or that you do not owe as much for a rightful debt. As long as you mail your response within 30 days of receiving the validation notice, the debt collector must send you a copy of the bill or another form of a written debt verification. After sending the written verification, the creditor may resume its debt collection efforts. During these steps, if you’d rather the creditor not contact you, state your intentions in a mailed letter.
What Specific Actions Are Against the Law?
Other than specific calling times and prohibitions against who collections agents can contact, the FDCPA considers several other specific actions a violation of your rights. Creditors cannot lie about who they are, such as misrepresenting themselves as government agents or legal representatives. They also cannot misrepresent the amount of money you owe, nor may they deceitfully state that they may take legal action or have you arrested if you do not pay your debt if the statement is untrue.
The federal act also bans creditors from badgering you by repeatedly calling you, threatening you with physical violence or using profanity during your correspondences. Another action that collections agents cannot take is resorting to unethical practices. Examples of such practices include threatening to illegally take your home or other property and collecting fees or interest on your debt if your original agreement or state law does not allow it. If you send a check to pay your debt (or a portion of it), the company cannot deposit a post-dated check before the rightful date.
Do You Have the Right To Designate Which Debt Your Payments Apply To?
If you owe multiple debts, you can state which accounts you want to apply payments to. There could be a debt that you feel is not yours. If so, the creditor does not have permission to apply payments toward such a debt.
Do Creditors Have the Right To Garnish Your Wages?
Wage garnishment is one legal option that collections agencies have, but using it requires a court order. Should a company send a legal order such as a lawsuit, do not ignore it. If you do, you could lose the right to fight against the garnishment.
Further, any federal benefits you receive are beyond a creditor’s ability to garnish. Still, they can siphon a percentage of your benefits if you owe alimony, child support, delinquent taxes or student loans. If your debt falls into those categories, familiarize yourself with your state’s most-recent laws about benefits garnishment.
Can You Sue for FDCPA Violations?
Say that you endure a violation. You can receive damages by suing the collector. You may recover damages for physical and emotional distress endured under collections efforts, such as migraine headaches, stress, anxiety, depression, heart palpitations and panic attacks. If you experience such distress, thoroughly document it, and visit your doctor to rule out other causes. You can sue the collector for compensation for treatment to address your suffering.
Do you have difficulty concentrating at work if creditors constantly call and harass you, chipping away at your productivity? You can sue for lost wages, and you can look into recovering illegally garnished wages. As part of your damages, ask the court to force the debt collector to stop sending you letters or calling you, known as injunctive remedies.
Others in your life may also file a third-party lawsuit for an FDCPA violation. This includes coworkers, family members, neighbors and friends who endured relentless and unethical letters and phone calls.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
Do you suspect a collection agency infringed on your rights under the FDCPA? Do not risk giving up your power, your hard-earned money, or your peace of mind to immoral practices. An experienced legal representative can help. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!