The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA for short, provides very broad protections for consumers. It is a great statute, and today I want to go over some of the most common violations.
1. ATTEMPTING TO COLLECT A DEBT, OR AN AMOUNT, THAT YOU DO NOT OWE If a debt collector attempts to collect a debt from you that you don’t owe, the debt collector has violated the FDCPA. Even if the debt collector attempts to collect the wrong amount from you, like charging you a fee that you don’t owe or too high an interest rate, it is a violation of the FDCPA.
2. HARASSMENT A debt collector may not harass or abuse a person in connection with the collection of a debt. This can include threats of violence, yelling, cursing and repeated or continuous phone calls to a particular number. It can also include making phone calls without disclosing the caller’s identity.
3. CONTACTING YOU AFTER BEING ASKED, IN WRITING, TO STOP If you write to a debt collector and advise them that you refuse to pay the debt or request that they cease contacting you, the debt collector cannot thereafter contact you in an attempt to collect the debt.
4. CALLING YOU AT WORK AFTER YOU HAVE ASKED THEM TO STOP The FDCPA prohibits a debt collector from calling a consumer at their place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such phone calls at work. If a debt collector calls you at work after you have advised them that you are not allowed to receive personal calls at work, the debt collector has violated the FDCPA.
5. COMMUNICATING WITH YOU AFTER THE DEBT COLLECTOR KNOWS YOU ARE REPRESENTED BY AN ATTORNEY If the debt collector knows you are represented by an attorney and knows or can readily ascertain the attorney’s name and address, the debt collector can no longer have any direct communications with the consumer, either by phone or mail.
6. CALLING YOUR RELATIVES, FRIENDS OR REFERENCES A debt collector may only contact other persons about your debt in order to obtain contact information for you. In making contact with these people, the debt collector is not permitted to state the reason they are calling and is not permitted to reveal the name of the company that is calling unless this information is specifically requested.
7. MAKING THREATS THAT THEY CANNOT LEGALLY ACCOMPLISH I see this quite a bit. Debt collectors get a little too aggressive and say things like: “we will garnish your wages next week if you don’t pay.” Wage garnishment cannot happen until there is a judgment, so if the debt collector has not yet sued you and obtained a judgment then they are not going to be able to garnish your wages next week. Other debt collectors will say things like “you will be arrested if you don’t pay this debt.” That simply isn’t true and saying that to a consumer (who may not know better) is a violation of the FDCPA.
8. CONTINUING COLLECTION ACTIVITY BEFORE PROVIDING VERIFICATION OF THE DEBT Within five days of a debt collector’s initial communication with a consumer, the debt collector must advise the consumer in writing of the consumer’s opportunity to request validation of the debt. If the consumer requests validation within thirty days of receiving this notice, the debt collector must cease all collection activity until the debt collector has mailed the consumer documentation verifying the debt. Unfortunately, since the courts have not required this so-called verification to be much beyond a letter saying how much the debt is and who the original creditor is, debt collectors typically respond pretty quickly to these validation requests with a letter that contains very little information. Even so, sometimes debt collectors forget to respond to validation requests but continue to attempt to collect the debt. This is a violation of the FDCPA.