Personal, family, and household debts are covered under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This includes money owed for the purchase of an automobile, for medical care, or for charge accounts.
A debt collector is any person, other than the creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to others. Under a 1986 amendment to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, this includes attorneys who collect debts on a regular basis.
A collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or FAX. However, a debt collector may not contact you at unreasonable times or places, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree. A debt collector also may not contact you at work if the collector knows that your employer disapproves.
You can stop a collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collection agency telling them to stop. Once the agency receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact. The agency may notify you if the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action.
The debt collector may not contact anyone other than your attorney. If you do not have an attorney, a collector may contact other people, but only to find out where you live and work. Collectors usually are prohibited from contacting such permissible third parties more than once. In most cases, the collector may not tell anyone other than you and your attorney that you owe money.
Within five days after you are first contacted, the collector must send you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe, the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money, and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money.
A collector may not contact you if, within 30 days after you are first contacted, you send the collection agency a letter stating you do not owe money. However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt, such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed.
Harassment. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse anyone. For example, debt collectors may not:
False statements. Debt collectors may not use any false statements when collecting a debt. For example, debt collectors may not:
Debt collectors also may not state that:
Debt collectors may not:
Unfair practices. Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, collectors may not:
If you owe more than one debt, any payment you make must be applied to the debt you indicate. A debt collector may not apply a payment to any debt you believe you do not owe.
You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date you believe the law was violated. If you win, you may recover money for the damages you suffered. Court costs and attorneys fees also can be recovered. A group of people also may sue a debt collector and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever is less.
Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General’s office and the Federal Trade Commission. Many states have their own debt collection laws and your Attorney Generals office can help you determine your rights.
If you have questions about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or your rights under the Act, write: Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington , D.C. 20580 . Although the FTC generally cannot intervene in individual disputes, the information you provide may indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring action by the Commission.
Disclaimer: Debt Shield, Inc. does not provide legal, tax or investment advice. Debt Shield, Inc. does not assist in the repair, modification, improvement, extension or correction of credit entries or reporting.
Copyright 2004 by Debt Shield, Inc. All rights reserved. No publishing, broadcasting, rewriting or redistributing.