It’s 6:45 AM in the morning, you’re just pulling into the parking lot at work ready to tackle the day and your phone rings. You don’t recognize the phone number, you’re thinking who could this be. To your surprise it’s a debt collector, threatening to call every reference you listed when you applied for the auto loan. They even go as far as to say they’ll report your vehicle stolen if you don’t make a payment today.
Naturally, anyone getting a call like that would be intimidated, scared, angry but what you may not know is that a call such as the one I juts described is ILLEGAL and violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which protects your rights as a consumer. The FDCPA protects you from debt collectors violating your rights by using unfair and unethical debt collection practices.
Check out some of the rights that you have under the FDCPA. Here is a link to the FDCPA law here: www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fdcpa/fdcpact.htm
Knowledge is power
Knowledge is power, but only if it’s applied . The first step is to know your rights and acquire the necessary “knowledge” you need to deal with debt collectors who frequently violate the law.
Have you ever been agitated, pressured or bullied by a debt collector? If you answered yes, most likely they used illegal debt collection tactics to try and collect from you.
The objective of this article is to give you all the information you need to legally turn the tables, beat the debt collectors at their own game and get the peace that you want and deserve.
There are a ton of helpful information and resources in this article that can help you and give you some relief, so be sure to read it, take notes and apply what you learn.
You would probably be pleasantly surprised to discover the massive amount of rights you have when a debt collector is trying to collect from you because of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This federal law gives you power that you’re going to enjoy using.
A debt collector has things that they can and can’t do and there are actions you should take when the debt collector is in violation of the law.
A debt collector CAN:
- Call you by phone or send you a letter in the mail.
- Reach out to someone who knows you get your address if they don’t have it. But they can’t disclose that you owe money.
- Whenever a debt collector contacts you, there is a list of information they’re required to give you.
The debt collector must:
- Immediately disclose they’re a debt collector.
- Tell you the information you give them will be used to collect the debt.
- Mail you a written notice that they presume the debt is valid.
- Send a statement saying that if you challenge the debt within 30 days they’ll provide you verification
The debt collector must also supply you with the following information within 5 days of them first contacting you.
They must include:
- The total amount of the debt owed
- They have to include the creditors name
- A statement that the debt is assumed to be valid
- A statement that they’ll provide you the name and address of the original debt holder, within 30 days of your written request.
- A statement that they’ll provide you with verification of the debt within 30 days, if you dispute the debt.
The good news is that if the debt collector who is attempting to collect the debt does not provide you the information that I just listed, you can legally sue them and the possibilities of you winning are very likely.
Don’t be pushed around or let a debt collector use scare tactics to make your life miserable. There are laws that the debt collector is required to adhere to.
A list of things a debt collector is NOT allowed to do when trying to collect from you:
- They can’t threaten to take action they don’t intend to take.
- They can’t contact any of your neighbors or family about the debt.
- Calling you at work is not allowed if you inform them that you can’t accept their calls.
- They’re not allowed to sell the debt to another debt collector if the debt has already passed the statute of limitations.
- They can’t call you at crazy hours
- They can’t file a lawsuit against you in a jurisdiction that you don’t reside in.
- They can’t seize any property if the law in your State doesn’t allow it.
- They cannot garnish your wages if it is not permissible by law.
- They can’t report your vehicle stolen if you failed to make a payment.
- They aren’t allowed to threaten to arrest you, file criminal charges, call you every day until you pay or do anything that is a violation of FDCPA.
That’s just a few of many things that a debt collector is NOT allowed to do.
Debt can be stressful and emotionally draining, but you can reduce or eliminate the harmful effects of debt by exercising your rights once you know what they are.
Educate Yourself – Exercise Your Rights!
The very first thing you must do when a debt collector originally contacts you regarding the debt is demand that they validate the debt and provide you “proper” proof. No matter what they say, don’t be scared or intimidated. You have a right under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to request that the debt be validated.
Be sure to put your request in writing and send it to the debt collector by certified mail.
Important: Send your request in writing within the first 30 days of the first contact. Don’t wait!
When you mail your debt validation request to the debt collector there are a few important requests to include.
Your list of requests should include:
- Requests that they provide you with name and address of the original creditor
- Proof of any judgment in reference to the debt (copy)
- Included in your list, add a reminder to the debt collector that in accordance with the FDCPA, they aren’t allowed to attempt collection of the debt unless they send you the requested information.
According to the law, the burden of proof falls on the creditor and not you the debtor. You’re not at the mercy of the debt collector, no matter what the amount of the debt is and the circumstances surrounding it.
When a debt collector contacts you, you AREN’T REQUIRED TO:
- Talk to them about the debt
- Accept their calls when they call
- Respond to questions they may ask you
- Talk about any private or financial information
*Profess that you owe any money
Every state has a statute of limitations, which is the amount of time a debtor can legally collect payment on a debt. If you pay on a debt that has passed the statute of limitations, you will extend the time period.
There are plenty of things that you should avoid doing when being pursued by debt collector.
A list of what you SHOULD NOT DO when contacted by a debt collector:
- Admit that you owe debt
- Pay any money towards the debt (partial payment)
- Provide any of your banking or credit card information to them. (NEVER EVER)
You’re probably wondering what you SHOULD DO or what the next steps should be. Taking the right action will save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. These principles for debt collection apply to someone who may owe one thousand dollars as well as the person who owes one million dollars.
What you SHOULD and CAN do when contacted by a debt collector by phone or mail:
- Send certified letter requesting “PROPER” validation of the debt. (I’ll include what’s considered Proper validation)
- Inform them you can’t accept their calls at your work place
- Send the debt collector a certified letter with your request (keep a copy for your records)
- Keep a log of all communication and documents you receive and send, just in case you have to hire an attorney and provide evidence. (you can get an FDCPA attorney for zero out of pocket)
If you’ve been contacted by a debt collector and you felt as though you were being threatened, pressured or intimidated you can send them a cease and desist letter and stop all phone calls. You have the right, not to be harassed.
What you need to do is…
- Tell the debt collector to stop calling you and anyone associated with you
- Let the debt collector know you’re documenting all communication and phone records
In case they forgot, tell them that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that they honor your request or you can and will sue them.
After the debt collector received your cease and desist letter by certified mail, they can only contact you for two reasons.
- To let you know that they’re not pursuing the collection of the debt any more.
- Let you know of any action they instead to take in regards to the debt (law suit, lien, etc)
If the debt collector disregards your cease and desist letter and decides to continue their attempt to collect, there are some easy but very important actions you must take.
Here’s what you do, if they fail to comply:
- Don’t pick up the phone when the debt collector calls.
- If they’re stupid enough to leave a message on your phone, save it. Especially if it’s a threatening harassing call.
- Take screenshots of all incoming calls from the debt collector.
- Now you’ll hire an FDCPA attorney and provide them with all of the evidence that you’ve collected, which proves that the debt collector has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you’re worrying about paying attorney fees, don’t worry. Most all FDCPA attorneys wont charge any upfront fees. They get paid, when you get paid, so they have incentive to see that your victorious.
The type of damages you may be able to collect if your attorney determines that you have a case are pretty good.
Damages can include but aren’t limited to:
- Judicial compensation up to $1,000
- Legal Fees
- Damages that consist of:
- Compensation for emotional distress
- Compensation for medical expenses
- Reimbursement for any debt that was collected from you unjustly
This information can help protect you from unlawful practices used by debt collectors, if you apply it.
Knowing your rights are vital to you in being able to legally turn the tables on debt collectors.