Get help with debt collectors, read about your rights.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that was created due to a need to protect consumers and families that are struggling to pay their bills on time. The regulation will give individuals help in dealing with debt collectors that are aggressively trying to get borrowers to begin paying bills. The FTC ensures consumers have a number of legal rights given to them and also that collectors follow all of the rules and regulations in place.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act can, among other things, stop calls from the companies and it enforces all state as well as federal government laws. It requires that all debt collectors and the companies they work for treat consumers fairly. It is targeted at leveling the playing field and it prohibits debt collectors from using certain methods to collect on any payments that may be due. The federal government commission is created with borrowers in mind and it gives them the protections they deserve
It is always important to note that the best way to stop a debt collector from calling is to stay out of debt in the first place. To meet this goal, there are many resources that families can use, and find out how to take advantage of assistance programs offered by credit card companies. Read more on credit card debt assistance programs.
How may a debt collector contact me?
They can use almost any form of communication. A debt collector may contact you by mail, in person, by telephone, fax, or even a telegram. However, they can’t contact you at inconvenient places or times. As an example, they can’t contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree to this. A debt collector also can’t contact you at your workplace if the collector knows that your employer disapproves of such contacts or if you notify them not to do this.
Prevent a debt collector from contacting you
There are ways to do this. If you need to, you can have a debt collector stop contacting you by writing a letter to the agency they work for or collector telling them to stop contacting you. Once the letter is received, there are only two exceptions to this rule. They may not contact you again other than to say there will be no further contact. Another reason that they may also contact you is to notify you that the creditor or debt collector intends to take specific action on your account.
May a debt collector contact other people about the arrears due or me not paying bills?
Possibly, if they need to get help in reaching you or they may initiate this communication for a couple other reasons. If you have an attorney or some type of representative, then the debt collector needs to contact your attorney and not you. If you do not have a lawyer representing you, a collector can actually contact other people, but only for limited reasons.
The reasons for these calls include the following. They can contact others to find out what your phone number is, if they need help finding out where you live, or where you work. Please note, debt collectors typically are prohibited from contacting such third parties more than one time. In most cases, the collector can’t tell anyone other than your attorney and you that you are not paying bills on time. They can’t go and tell third parties that you owe money on your accounts.
What does the debt collector need to tell me about the bills or unpaid debt?
Within five days after you are first contacted for paying bills, the debt collector will need to send you a written notice telling you that you have not been paying the account on time. They will need to communicate the amount of money you owe on the bills and the name of the creditor that you need to pay. They also need to tell you what action you have to take if you believe you do not owe the money. For example, they can advise you on solutions such as consolidation or different types of interest rate reduction plans. Find out how to consolidate debt.
Laws to stop contact if you do not owe money
A collector can’t contact you if within 30 days after you receive the first written notice from them if you send the collection agency a formal letter telling them that you do not owe money. There are also statutes of limitations to prevent collection of credit card debts, and these laws are state specific.
However, an agency or collector can renew these activities against you if they send you proof of you not paying the bill or debt. For example, if the debt collection company sends you a copy of an unpaid bill for the amount owed then they may be able to resume activities.
Stop debt collectors from medical and hospital bills
If you owe money on a medical or hospital bill, then there are some different tactics you can take. There are additional tips that may help in solving these health care related obligations. Debt collectors also have more rules they need to follow for these types of medical costs. Find how to stop hospital debt collectors.
Do state programs and laws exist?
Yes, many states have laws and additional protections for consumers. So in addition to the assistance from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which has the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, consumers will get additional rights at the state level. There are also rules created by most of the major banks to further enhance these protections for consumers. Find information on plans from :
Types of practices that are prohibited
They have many restrictions, including those below. If a collector does not abide by them then you can take actions on them, including possibly suing. Lawsuits can be filed in local as well as some state courts against the company that is harassing the borrower or breaking the law. Also, find out maybe the best way to get a debt collector to stop contacting. Read more on how to sue a debt collector.
Harassment. Debt collectors may not oppress, harass, or abuse you or any third parties that they contact. This can be a fine line though. For example, debt collectors may not:
- use threats of hard violence.
- publish your name on a list of consumers who need to and refuse to pay their bills or debts on time.
- the debt collection can speak using “harsher” language, but if they cross the line and it turns to harassment or profanity, you can ask them to stop.
- use profane or obscene language; or repeatedly use the telephone or other communication methods to annoy someone into paying.
False statements. Debt collectors cannot use any misleading or false statements. All communication needs to be honest when they are trying to collect bills or outstanding debts. For example, debt collectors can’t::
- falsely indicate that they are government representatives or attorneys.
- can’t falsely imply that you may have committed an illegal act or crime.
- falsely represent that they work for or operate a credit bureau.
- they can’t lie about the amount of your bills or debt you need to pay.
- claim that forms or papers being sent to you are legally binding forms when they are not.
- indicate that any papers being mailed to you are not legal forms when in fact they are legal forms and need to be treated as such.
- If a debt collector threatens to withdraw money directly from your bank, this is illegal.
There are more examples of what is considered to be unlawful as well. Debt collectors can’t state that:
- you will be jailed or arrested if you do not pay your bills.
- they will garnish, need to seize, attach, or sell your wages or property. They can only say this if the creditor or collection agency really intends to do this, and of course if it is legal to do so.
- certain actions, such as a lawsuit, will be used against you, when such legal action legally cannot be taken, or when the collector does not intend to take such action.
In addition, debt collectors and companies may not:
- provide untrue credit information about you to anyone, especially including a credit bureau.
- send you any mail or forms that look like it is an official document from a government agency or court when it is not.
- use a false name when communicating with you for payment of your bills.
- banks can’t take money from one of the borrower’s accounts to pay another account if not authorized.
Unfair practices. Debt and bill collectors cannot engage in unfair practices when they are trying to get you to pay any bills they claim are owed. For example, collectors may not:
- collect any amount that is greater than the bills you need to pay, unless of course your state law permits such a fee or charge.
- deposit a future or post dated check prematurely.
- use lying or deception to force you to accept collect calls or pay for telegrams.
- threaten to take or take your property unless this can be done legally.
- contact you using a postcard.
What control do I have over paying bills?
If you owe money on more than one bill or debt and then if you begin paying it, any payment that you make has to be applied to the unpaid bills that you indicate. So the funds you send in need to be posted to the account that you need help with. A bill collector can’t apply a payment to bills you believe you do not owe any money for.
For example, if you owe the same creditor three different bills, and only one is overdue, if you make a payment you can have it applied to the financial obligation that you are late on. This is usually valid for medical costs as many people have more than one bill from a hospital or health care provider. Find ways to get help with medical debt, or how a credit counseling agency can help you with your debt and ensure the proper accounts are paid.
What can I do if I think a debt collector violated the law in dealing with me?
You can sue a collector in a federal or state court up to one year from the date the law was violated. If you win, you may be able to recover money for any damages you suffered. That amount can be substantial. In addition to that, you can be awarded an additional amount up to $1,000 for harassment or other damages.
Your court costs as well as attorney fees can also be recovered. as part of the lawsuit So if you are not treated properly then you can take action and you will be compensated for it. Since you can be reimbursed for your costs then the risks to take this step have been greatly reduced.
Class action lawsuits can also be an option, including against credit card companies. You can also form a group of people to sue an agency, company or debt collector and recover money for the damages up to $500,000. Or there are other ways to make claim and to recover up to one percent of the collector or agencies net worth, whichever is less. A class action lawsuit is a little more complicated, and consumers will need to work with an attorney on this.
Payday lenders have additional rules when it comes to unfair practices. Almost every state has created unique regulations and consumer protections for dealing with the repayment or collection practices of these lenders. Learn the specifics of what payday lenders can do to collect their debts and outstanding loans. Find the details on state payday loan laws.
Report a debt collector for alleged violations
You can report problems you have with a bill collector to the Federal Trade Commission as well as your states Attorney General's office. This is another step to take to stop them from calling you in an aggressive manner. While most states have their own need for debt collection laws, your Attorney General office can help you determine your rights for your specific state and provide assistance when it comes to contesting and/or paying bills.
The FTC is a federal government agency that works for the consumer and they prevent deceptive, fraudulent, and unfair business practices in the consumer marketplace. Not only do they create and enforce these laws, but the FTC also provides information to help all consumers spot, stop, and avoid unfair debt collectors. To file a complaint dial 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.