If you owe money, it’s likely you’ve come into contact with debt collectors. Debt collectors certainly have a legal right to collect debts that are owed, but federal law regulates the right and wrong way that they can do that. In many cases, debt collectors cross the line, resulting in illegal activity to collect debts. When they do, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) allows consumers to sue for money damages—regardless of whether the debt being collected is valid or not.
It’s important to remember that when we say “debt collectors,” we’re talking both about companies that collect debts for creditors, and about debt buyers—companies that purchase, and try to collect on old debts.
How do debt collectors cross the line? There are certainly many ways, but here are some more common ones.
Calling your cell phone or a third parties’ cell phone without consent- Debt collectors cannot call your cell phone unless you consented or provided the number to it or the original creditor.
Denigrating or Shaming You
– Collectors may not outright insult you, but they may say things that are subtle ways of humiliating you. For example, saying “honest people pay debts,” or asking “do you want to look like a teenager?” or asking “what would your child think of you?” or other comments meant to humiliate you are violations of federal law.
Calling or Contacting Other People About Your Debt
– Debt collectors will often call friends, family, or even your work, to try to collect a debt. But communication about your debt to anyone other than you or your spouse, is illegal.
Debt collectors will often call everybody they can find to reach you. They will leave messages with neighbors, your receptionist at work, with parents, and even on your children’s phones. All are considered communications with third parties about your debt, and thus violate the FDCPA.
The debt collector doesn’t even have to reference the debt. If a collector leaves a message asking for “Sarah to call us about an important business matter” with a receptionist, or with a family member, that’s communication about the debt to a third person, even though the word “debt” isn’t even used.
Threatening You in Any Way – Any threats for nonpayment are FDCPA violations. This includes threatening that property will be taken, that they will get a judgment, or any threats where a collector tells you what a court could or will do, if a lawsuit is filed. The threat doesn’t have to be or sound hostile. A very (seemingly) friendly comment, even spoken in a helpful tone as if it was advice, like “a lawsuit will involve attorney’s fees and you don’t want that extra expense,” is an FDCPA violation.
If you’re being harassed by debt collectors, don’t be a victim. Fight back, and assert your rights under the FDCPA. Talk to the consumer advocate Keogh Law attorneys about asserting an FDCPA claim to protect yourself. Call us at (866)726-1092 or contact us online today!