Debt Collectors and Creditors: Your Rights
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The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law that provides protection against obnoxious collection efforts. State laws may extend the federal law's protections.
Thanks to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors are not allowed to engage in any of the following activities:
- Abusive and deceptive practices.
- Harassment and abuse.
- False or misleading representations.
- Unfair practices.
- You cannot be contacted before 8 in the morning or after 9 o'clock at night.
- You can demand that the collection agency stop calling you at all and insist that all communication be made only in writing to your home address. You do not have to give your address. If you get all communication in writing, you will also have proof of everything that was said, or not said.
- If you win a court case, you may be entitled to receive a return of any fees you paid to a lawyer.
- Your neighbors, friends, family members and employer cannot be contacted at all.
- If you request it, you must be provided with proof of the debt.
The law also requires that debt collectors take certain action, such as send you a "Validation Notice."
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act only applies to debt collectors. It does not apply to collection efforts by the original creditor. Your state laws may cover collection efforts by the original creditor.
To learn about the debtor protection laws in your state, see: www.bcsalliance.com/y_debt_statelaws.html. The site provides links to state debt collection statutes or to specific websites where one can research a state's legislative code. Alternatively, type into your favorite search engine: The name of the state in which you reside plus the words "law protecting debtors"
If you are subjected to illegal collection efforts:
- Ask for the name of the company.
- Ask for the amount of the debt, to whom it is owed, and why, in writing.
- Send a letter (Return Receipt Requested or by overnight) telling the agency not to call you anymore. The company has to stop the calls. Although the calls are supposed to stop, the debt remains.
If the law is violated, you can enforce it in court (with the possibility of getting back your legal fees.) The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can also take action about any violations of the law.
- It is advisable not to pay a debt that is being collected until you receive proof that you owe the debt and the amount owed.
- If you do make payment, do not pay by check or credit card over the phone. Do it in writing, preferably by check. If you are settling the debt for less than you owe, get agreement in writing to the deal before sending the check.