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  • Am I Being Harassed By A Debt Collector? Common Practices of Abuse by Collection Agencies

    Published on August 22, 2023

    Financial debt can be challenging. It could force you to give away your hard-earned income to repay others. Managing exchanges with debt collectors can bring substantial stress and worry. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was instituted by the federal government to address the harassment you may face from debt collectors.

    Debt collector harassment is defined as actions that intimidate, oppress, or bully consumers into settling their debts. Harassment from debt collectors takes place over phone calls, emails, text messages, social media, direct mail, or even discussions about your debt with people you know. Click here to learn more about the practices of abuse by collection agencies. 

    Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

    The FDCPA, first enacted in 1977 and amended in 1996, was a response to a growing number of complaints about the methods used by collection agencies to compel people to repay their debts.

    The FDCPA only applies to debt collection agencies and not the original creditors. Some debts have “time-barred” statutes of limitations, which can restart once you recognize a debt or make a payment to debt collectors.

    The FDCPA defines harassment related to debt collection as any conduct intended to harass, oppress, or abuse a person. Laws regulating creditor harassment vary by state, making it essential to understand your state’s protections or hire an experienced law professional that does.

    Debt Collector Harassment

    Collection agencies have the right to recover funds owed to creditors, but they are not allowed to employ deceptive or threatening methods to recover those debts. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) reported in 2020 that there were over 75,200 consumer complaints about debt collectors. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) noted that this industry has more complaints than all others.

    Collection agencies pursue debts related to medical bills. That’s why new federal guidelines have been introduced to protect consumers with medical debt. Federal guidelines hold medical debt collectors accountable for adopting harmful or aggressive practices. 

    According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, collection agencies maintain $140 billion in unsettled medical expenses. Other areas vulnerable to assertive debt collectors include credit card and student loan debt and auto loan and mortgage payments. Business loans are not subject to this law.

    The FDCPA and Harassment

    The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that outlines what is permitted and what isn’t, aiming to safeguard consumers’ rights. The FDCPA limits the techniques debt collectors can employ to recover money from debtors. However, some collectors disregard its provisions, and violations can lead to sanctions and penalties for the offending collector. 

    Excessive, Harassing, or Abusive Phone Calls

    The FDCPA prevents debt collectors from contacting you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9 p.m. If you’ve communicated to debt collectors that they should not reach out during your working hours, it is illegal for them to do so.  Debt collectors must also avoid using abusive and harassing language.

    Frequent phone calls from debt collectors infringe on the FDCPA guidelines. There’s no defined limit on call attempts, but if you experience constant calls from debt collectors, reach out to an FDCPA attorney.

    Threats and False Claims

    Unethical debt collectors try to pressure debtors into settling their debts using false or misleading information. They can falsely represent themselves as lawyers or even law enforcement officials or threaten unlawful actions. The FDCPA and some state criminal laws outlaw some of these tactics.

    Disclosing Your Debts to Third Parties

    Debt collectors may contact your employer, family members, and credit references when they have failed to reach you. Regardless, they cannot disclose your debt details to these parties. 

    Only specific individuals such as your attorney or representative, the creditor, their attorneys, credit bureaus, or a co-signer to the debt can discuss the debt with the collector. Otherwise, they can only ask if the person they’re speaking to knows how to contact you.

    Seek Assistance from an Experienced FDCPA Attorney

    You and your FDCPA attorney can file a lawsuit against a debt collector once they infringe upon your rights outlined in the FDCPA.  You may be able to recover statutory damages for violations and compensation for any physical or emotional harm caused by the breach.

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