Dealing with debt collectors adds a vast layer of stress incomparable to the amount you owe. Your phone rings up, and you’re suddenly gripped by the fear of having a debt collector at the other end. Due to debt collectors’ reputation for being rude, obnoxious, and even scary, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was enacted to stop these offensive behaviors. However, some debt collectors still go against the law. Knowing what they’re allowed to do or not do will help ensure that unscrupulous collectors do not bully you. In this article, we explore five things debt collectors are not allowed to do.
Threaten to Arrest You
While there’s nothing cool about failing to repay your debt, know that it is not a crime! Therefore, no collection agency has the right to threaten to issue you an arrest warrant, let alone put you in jail. Failing to pay your mortgage, credit card debt, auto debt, or medical bill cannot land you in jail or prison.
However, there are specific debt-related issues that may lead to your arrest. For instance, if you fail to report to your debt court case, the judge might issue a warrant for your arrest. Furthermore, tax evasion is a criminal offense that may land you in jail. You can also go to jail if you refuse to pay child support.
Impersonate a Government Agency
Believe it or not, some unethical debt collectors pretend to work for the government to pressure you into paying your debt. A popular Georgia case in 2014 involved collectors from a company named ‘Williams, Scott & Associates’ accusing people of fraud and threatening them with criminal charges if they refused to pay. Seven of the parties involved were arrested.
Debt collectors are – under no circumstances – allowed to work under the pretense of being affiliated with any government agency!
Shame You In Public
While being in debt is a shameful thing for most people, debt collectors are not allowed to shame you in public to nudge you to pay up. The law prevents them from publishing the names of debtors in public. They are also prohibited from speaking to anyone else about your debt aside from you, your spouse, or your attorney.
Note that debt collectors can contact third parties – like your neighbor or employer – to track down your address or get your phone number. However, they can neither discuss your debt with third parties nor contact them more than once.
FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from harassing you. Harassment can take on several forms, but there’s a list of how collectors CANNOT harass you:
1) Disturb you with multiple calls.
2) Call you at unapproved hours without your permission. Approved hours range from 8:00 is to 9:00 pm.
3) Use profane or obscene language.
4) Call you during work hours if you forbid it in writing.
5) Contact you for any reason if you’ve put it in writing for them to stop all forms of contact.
However, there are two main times when debt collectors can legally contact you: when they’re contacting you to inform you they would no longer be in touch or if they’re contacting you to inform you that a lawsuit has been filed against you.
Collect a Debt You Do Not Owe
Debt collectors – either deliberately or mistakenly – sometimes rely on false information to get you to pay what you do not owe.
One major way this happens is when your original creditor sells your debt to a collection agency, which may, in turn, sell your debt to another agency. Some errors may pop up in your debt during the process, requiring you to pay for what you don’t owe. Another way this might happen is when a debt collector agency tricks you into paying a debt that has already been discharged in bankruptcy you filed for.
That’s why debt collection companies are required by law to send you a formal notice of how much you owe, to whom, how to make payments and other necessary details within five days of contacting you. If you suspect you’re asked to pay a debt, you cannot remember, ask the collector via mail for added information. Do not simply assume that you’re responsible for paying it.
Debt collection agencies have several tricks up their sleeves to nudge debtors to pay their debts. However, the law restricts them from harassing, threatening, or shaming debtors. Therefore, please do not fall for their cheap tricks.
Finally, note that the FDCPA doesn’t apply to in-house debt collectors. In-house debt collectors do not have to follow the rules laid out by the FDCPA. However, in-house debt collectors are mainly used to collect debts that are a few weeks or months delinquent, after which the original creditor hires a debt collection agency.
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