Stop collection agencies from harassing you. Know your rights. Federal and state laws protect you from debt collectors’ harassment.
The federal law is called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) which guards every consumer against abuse and harassment by creditors and collection agencies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the FDCPA. Here are your rights:
Under the law, debt collectors cannot
- Phone you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Contact you at work if you tell them verbally or in writing that your boss won’t allow such calls or contact at your workplace.
- Contact other persons about you for any reason other than simply asking for your contact information. They especially cannot tell anyone that you owe money.
- Abuse or harass you, your family, boss and co-workers, or anyone else they contact.
- Lie about how much you owe.
- Use deceptive methods trying to collect your debts. Examples of this include:
O Falsely claiming to be a cop or other law enforcement officer.
O Claiming you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt.
O Threatening to seize, garnish, or sell your properties without being permitted by law.
O Lying about your credit to anyone, even a credit reporting company.
O Using a fake company name.
In addition to these rights, the law requires debt collectors to inform you of your rights the first time they contact you. These rights include your right to dispute the debt. Just like when a cop must inform a criminal suspect of the “Miranda Rights”, debt collectors must inform you of:
- The full debt amount;
- The creditor’s name;
- Your right to challenge the validity of the debt within 30 days and if you don’t, the debt will be considered legal; and
- Your right to demand verification of the debt.
The law requires this information to be given to you at the first face to face contact and written contact. If the first contact is made by phone, the debt collector must send you this information in writing within five (5) days from the first phone call when you talked to him or her.
How to Dispute Your Debts
Once you have been contacted by a debt collector, you have 30 days to send the debt collection agency (company) a written Verification Letter demanding written verification or other proof of your debt. This letter will stop collection agency calls and letters until your debt is verified. Send the verification letter by postal certified mail and keep that receipt in a safe place.
Verifying your debt requires the debt collector to inform you who the original creditor is along with the full amount owed. If you truly owe the money, you need to work something out with the debt collector to pay your debts over time.
Here is a sample Verification Letter:
Stop the Harassing Calls
Even if your debt is valid, collection agencies do not have the right to harass you by constantly calling you or your workplace or your family, friends, and neighbors. You can stop the calls by sending the debt collector a Cease Communication Letter demanding the debt collector to communicate with you only in writing or to stop all communications regarding the debt. Then the debt collector can only communicate with you in writing to inform you of specific actions (like a lawsuit was filed) or that your debt has been terminated. Once you hire a lawyer, the debt collector can only communicate with your lawyer.
Here is a sample Cease Communications Letter:
Stop the Abuse
The law states that debt collectors cannot use or threaten violence or any other criminal acts to harm you, your properties, or reputation. Offensive and profane language are also prohibited.
Hang up calls to you or any other abusive telephone conduct intending to harass and annoy you or your family, co-workers, and neighbors are illegal under the FDCPA law. If these types of abuse happen, you need to send a stronger worded Cease Communication Letter pointing out they are violating the law.
Here is a sample Cease Communications and Harassment Letter:
Verify the Statute of Limitations
Debt collectors are known to threaten to take legal actions like filing lawsuits. You need to verify whether your debt is beyond the Statute of Limitations which is the legal deadline for filing lawsuits. If the statute of limitations expired on your debt that means the creditor can’t file a lawsuit to demand payment from you. Therefore, the debt collector can’t threaten to file a lawsuit against you. This fact can be pointed out in your Cease Communication Letter.
Stop collection agencies from harassing you by knowing your rights.
As you can see, you have rights against debt collectors and creditors harassing you. From the first written contact or phone call, the debt collector must inform you of your rights. Any abuse or harassment can be stopped with a Cease Communication Letter from you.
Your debts must be verified by the debt collector after you send him or her a Verification Letter demand.
If the Statute of Limitations ran out on your debt without a lawsuit being filed, that debt can never be collected.
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