Picture this, you are at work someone is on the line for you. You start to think, “that’s weird, I was not expecting a call. My family has my cell phone, who would call me at work?” You pick up the phone and it is a collector calling on behalf of a credit card you owe money on. The whole situation is embarrassing and infuriating, but what can you do to prevent it?
One of the questions we always hear is “how do I get debt collectors to stop calling me?” Whether it’s at work or while you’re out with your friends, getting call after call from a debt collector isn’t something anyone wants to have to deal with. Luckily, you do have options.The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is Your Friend
Collectors go hand in hand with debt and they make a living at trying to do creative things to get you to pay the debt you owe their client. The company that is calling you might have a friendly business-like name with words like “Alliance” or “Portfolio” in the title or it might even be a law firm, but their goal is the same – get you to pay them money before you pay anything else.
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (the “FDCPA”) was passed by Congress to help regulate what collectors can and cannot do. It is important to note that the FDCPA is a Federal Statute and is binding on all states. Massachusetts has its own set of laws, 940 CMR 7.00, that also govern what collectors can do. The Massachusetts regulations are not discussed here, but in many ways are stricter than the FDCPA.Communicating With the Debtor
Here are some of the highlights of the FDCPA that pertain to how collector may contact you:
- A collector cannot call at inconvenient times, which is generally before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.;
- A collector cannot call your employer if they have reason to believe your employer prohibits such calls;
- If the collector knows an individual is represented by an attorney and can easily establish that attorney’s contact information, they must contact the attorney;
- If an individual writes the collector and tells them to cease communication, the collector must stop communication except to tell the debtor they are stopping or seeking a certain remedy against the debtor; and
- A collector may not contact third parties about the debt except for the debtor’s attorney, a credit reporting agency, or the creditor/debt collector’s attorney to name a few.
The FDCPA expressly prohibits:
- The collector from harassing or abusing the debtor. Some examples might be by threatening violence, criminal action, using profane language, threatening to advertise the debt as being for sale, publishing lists of debtors who refuse to pay debts, failing to identify themselves on a call, or letting calls ring incessantly;
- A collector from making false or deceiving representations. This might include falsely representing the amount or status of the debt, falsely claiming to be an attorney, threatening to take illegal action, falsely claiming the debtor has committed a crime, lying about the debt being in litigation, or claiming they are employed by a credit reporting agency.
If a collector violates the FDCPA, there might be legal consequences. The remedy is a civil one. If a court finds that there was an FDCPA by the preponderance of the evidence, it can impose out of pocket expenses incurred by the aggrieved party, punitive damages against the collector for up to $1,000 per violation, and court costs and attorney’s fees.
If a creditor sues you, you might want to raise FDCPA or bring the collection agency into the lawsuit. However, in doing so, you have to be able to establish a case if the court is going to award you damages. That is where we come in. FDCPA cases are complicated and creditors/collection agencies fight them vigorously. No creditor wants to be known as the one who shells out money to people who owe them money.
Call us today for a free consultation at (978) 458–1229.