Good news! You have rights! You probably have more than you’re aware of and you should seriously know your rights when dealing with debt collectors. In fact, this article will hopefully open your eyes to your rights to the degree that you no longer feel like a victim, but like a person who has the knowledge to stop the onslaught of negativity that accompanies most collection situations.
With the noise gone, you can regroup, plan your way out of your debt situation, and work your plan in peace. Believe it!
According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), Section 802:
“There is abundant evidence of the use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices by many debt collectors. Abusive debt collection practices contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy.”
Because of this, the FDCPA was added in 1978 to the Consumer Credit Protection Act, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the task of enforcing those laws. In fact if you feel you have been treated incorrectly by a collection agent or agency within the past year you can file a complaint by mailing it to:
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, D.C. 20580
877-382-4357 (toll free)
And you can find more information at http://www.ftc.gov/.
According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act collectors of personal debts cannot be abusive, unfair, or deceptive. They cannot contact you at all hours or at work if you tell them you cannot receive calls there.
As a matter of fact, if you send the collection company a letter like the following example, and they continue to contact you after ten days, you may be able to sue them! This simple letter is surprisingly effective, and can reduce your noise to zero.
No-Contact Letter Example :
COLLECTION AGENCY NAME
COLLECTION AGENCY ADDRESS
Re: YOUR NAME
NAME OF CREDITOR
To Whom It May Concern,
This is my formal notice to you under 15 U.S.C § 1692c(c) to cease all further communications with me at my home or place of employment except for the reasons specifically set forth in the federal law.
This letter is not meant in any way to be an acknowledgement that I owe this money.
Albin Renauer, J.D.; Robin Leonard, J.D.; and Stephen Elias, Attorney, How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy (Berkeley, CA, NOLO, 2011)
Further, thanks to the FDCPA, debt collectors must contact your attorney if you have one. If they do contact people you know they can generally only do this once, only to try to obtain contact information about you, and cannot discuss your debt with them.
Collectors must also send you a Validation Notice within five days of first contacting you. You then have thirty days to send them a letter saying you don’t owe all or part of the money, and they have to stop contacting you until they send you some verification of the debt, such as a bill.
Sample Collection Dispute Letter: Include the following as the body of your letter:
“I do not believe I owe this alleged debt and I ask that you verify it.
Accordingly, pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. sec. 1692, et seq., I hereby demand that you cease any further attempts to contact me, my family, or any third party regarding this alleged debt.
Should you fail to comply with this instruction, I am prepared to pursue your violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act in federal court. Your cooperation will be appreciated.
This is not in any way an acknowledgement that I owe this alleged debt.”
And believe it or not, even if you acknowledge the debt but simply don’t have the moolah to pay it, you can demand they not contact you by using wording such as the following:
“At the present time I am unable to pay the alleged debt. Accordingly, pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. sec. 1692, et seq., I hereby demand that you cease any further attempts to contact me, my family, or any third party regarding this alleged debt other than for purposes of verifying the debt.”
Recording of Calls
Collectors will usually state their call is being recorded along with other disclaimers prior to your conversation. Often your phone rings, you answer, and there is an annoying hold while some collection agent is alerted that somebody answered the computer-dialed phone number. You are done such a rude disservice only to be collected from.
A fascinating piece of advice came recently from a friend of mine who may have pioneered this idea: He would ask the collection agent if they minded if he recorded the call! He told me they often don’t know what to say and end the call right there.
In the very least, even if they only believe you’re recording the call and you’re not, they will avoid at all costs behavior that could lead them into trouble, giving you a better chance at a mutually amicable conversation, if your only purpose is to obtain the information needed for your No-Contact Letter you will then prepare.
Get More Help
Being helped or represented might be the best way to exercise your full array of rights in your collection matters. Read the laws, seek advice if the situation is serious or multiple.
As mentioned, the enforcement body for your rights in collection matters is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) but you also want to consult a consumer debt counseling agency. Start with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (https://www.nfcc.org) and find a local, non-profit agency from there. For perhaps even more fierce protection of your rights you might even consult a debt defense or consumer protection attorney.
No matter which way you decide to turn, ignorance of the law is no excuse, and I hope this brief article might have at least given you a good foundation and some effective tools with which to stand your ground, and begin to more peacefully handle your situation. Best of luck!