Frequently Asked Questions
What is a creditor?
A creditor is the entity that is owed a debt by a consumer. Some examples are credit cards, stores, auto lenders, mortgage companies and telephone carriers.
What is a debt collector or debt collection agency?
Both terms are referred to as debt collectors. A debt collector is any person, company or business engaged in collecting debts for creditors or the current owners of debts that have been purchased by them from creditors.
What kind of debts are covered under the Fair Debt Collection Protection Act?
The FDCPA covers all personal, family, and household debts. Some common examples are credit card debts, mortgage debt, medical bills, telephone carrier bills, student loans etc.
What is a statute of limitations?
The statute of limitations is the time period set by law for claims to be brought in Court. Different claims have different time periods. As it relates to the FDCPA, a consumer has only 1 year to assert a claim against a debt collector for violating the law. Only those events occurring in the previous 12 months before the date a lawsuit is filed, are viable in a court of law. For this reason, we urge people to calls us as soon as possible, to ensure the debt collector will not escape liability for their actions.
How may a debt collection agency contact me?
Unless you tell them not to, or unless they know you are represented by a lawyer, a debt collector can attempt to contact you in person, by mail, email or telephone. A collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places unless you have specifically agreed to be contacted at those times or places. Again, if you inform a collector that you have an attorney, the collector must contact the lawyer rather than you.
When can debt collectors call?
A debt collector may only call between 8:00am and 9:00pm, unless you ask them to call at a different time or unless you tell them to stop calling entirely.
Can a debt collector call me at work?
Yes unless the collector is made aware that your employer does not approve of such calls at work or that they are inconvenient, in which case they must stop calling.
Can a debt collector talk to other people about my debt?
A debt collector may not talk to anyone else about your debt besides you, your attorney, a credit agency, the creditor, or the creditor’s attorney unless given express permission by you to do so. They cannot talk to friends, roommates, co-workers, family, or former spouses about your debt.
A debt collection agency may contact others one time to get your address, phone number, or employer, but they cannot mention your debt to anyone.
Debt collection agencies may not send post cards or envelopes that feature language or symbols that relate to debt collection. A debt collector may not use envelope window transparencies which reveal debt or the purposes of the correspondence.
Can collectors call me about other people’s debts?
A debt collector may not call you more than once for a debt that they are notified does not belong to you, unless they have a strong indication that you are indeed the debtor and are providing false information that you are not. Alternatively, if you live with the debtor but have provided false information to that affect, and the debt collector has reason to know that, they may continue to call. To avoid either situation, simply tell the collector that you no longer want to be called because you find it harassing, or you dispute the debt or you find it inconvenient to receive calls at any time. The collector must cease calling if told any of these things. And a debt collector may not discuss with you the details of the debt they are seeking to collect if not your debt.
Can I stop a debt collection agency from contacting me?
Debt collectors are required by law to stop contacting you if you under several circumstances. First, they must cease and desist if you send a written certified letter telling them to do so. Once they receive the letter, they may not contact you again except to confirm there will be no further contact or to inform you that the creditor intends to take specific actions. Second, a debt collector must stop calling if told that you no longer want to be called because you find it harassing, or if you dispute the debt or if you tell them it is inconvenient to receive calls at any time. The collector must cease calling if told any of these things. None of these will make your debt go away if you actually owe it and nothing prevents the debt collector suing on behalf of the creditor if authorized to do so.
What must a debt collection agency tell me about the debt?
Within five days after you are initially contacted by a collection agency, they must send you a written notice that contains the following information:
- The amount of the debt
- The name of the creditor to whom you owe the debt
- A statement that they will assume the debt is valid unless you dispute it in writing within 30 days after you received the letter
- A statement that if you notify them in writing that you are disputing the debt within 30 days, then they will mail you proof that you owe the debt
- A statement that informs you that you may request in writing within 30 days, the name and address of the original creditor, if different than the current creditor
What types of debt collection practices are illegal?
Debt collection agencies may not harass or abuse you or anyone else they contact. They may not:
- Threaten to harm you, your reputation, or your property
- Use obscene language
- Publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit rating agency)
- Advertise the sale of your debt
- Repeatedly call to annoy, abuse, or harass someone
- Call you or your attorney without identifying themselves
Debt collection agencies may not harass or abuse you or anyone else they contact. They may not:
- call you if you have told them to stop
- call you at all, once notified that you are represented by an attorney
- harass you by calling repeatedly
- when calling family or friends collectors may only call once, and only to request information on how to locate you
- call your family, friends, co-workers or any others to discuss the debt
- call you before 8am and after 9pm unless you have given permission beforehand
- called you at any time or place which is inconvenient for you to receive such calls
- lie or falsely imply in any communication, that the collector is a government agency, or serving you with papers, or that you are subject to arrest, or that you have committed a crime
- provide untruthful information about the debt or the amount owed
- threaten to harm you
- threaten to seize your paycheck, bank accounts or property
- use obscene language in communicating with you
- publish your name on a 'bad debt list' (except to a credit rating agency)
- fail to identify themselves as debt collectors in every communication
- demanding your social security number, credit or debit card number, or bank account number
- failing to inform you that any information provided to them will be used to collect the debt
- attempt to collect a debt that is so old that it is beyond the statute of limitations, unless the consumer is told
Debt collection agencies may not use any false or misleading statements when collecting a debt. They cannot:
- Imply that they are attorneys, government representatives, or a credit bureau if they are not
- Lie about the name of their business, company, or organization
- Give you any false information
- Misrepresent the type, amount, or legal status of your debt
- Lie about the services or compensation you may receive for the collection of your debt
- Imply that you have committed a crime if you haven’t
- Tell you that you will be arrested if you do not pay a debt
- Fail to clearly tell you that any information you give them will be used toward collection of your debt
- Send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency when it is not
- Lie about whether papers being sent to you are legal documents or not
- Tell you they will seize, garnish, or sell your property or wages, unless it is legal and they or the creditor actually intends to do so
- Tell you that actions will be taken against you, unless it is legal and they intend to do so
Can a debt collector garnish my wages?
Garnishment of wages is prohibited in most circumstances, in most states. Exceptions include defaulted student loan debt that is backed by the U.S. Department Of Education (DOE), or debt arising from a final judgment. Some states do permit garnishment of other types, so it is important to check the law in the state you live in
Can a debt collector garnish federal benefits?
No. Federal benefits such as Social Security payments cannot be garnished by a debt collector
What if I don't think I owe the money?
If a debt collector is harassing you for a debt you don’t or may not owe, tell the debt collector that you dispute it. You do not need to say why. Best practices is to write a letter of dispute as soon as you receive calls or letters from debt collector, save a copy, send by certified mail and save the green card that is returned to prove delivery. A paper trail of the dispute is important as it prevents a debt collector from further calls and requires that any reporting of the debt on your credit, contain a notation that the debt is disputed
What can I do if I believe a debt collection agency has violated the FDCPA?
Debt collectors leave anger, frustration and fear in their wake. A violation of the FDCPA gives consumers the absolute right to sue up to one year from the date the law was violated. A successful claim entitles the consumer to money for actual damages, court costs, attorney’s fees, and an additional recovery of a maximum of $1,000 in what is referred to as “statutory damages”.
What should I do if a debt collector sues me?
Don’t ignore it and take it to a lawyer immediately for review. In many cases, litigation may proceed even if you have not been served directly. You want to avoid a judgment being entered against you at all costs so never disregard a lawsuit filed against you.
Contact us now and let us help you. Our services are free to clients and we can stop debt collector harassment for good.