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Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Your Rights Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Many of us have consumer debt: credit cards, a car loan, a mortgage or medical bills, and we may know what it is like to fall behind on those bills.  We may not know, however, that we have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that can protect us from harassing, threatening, and illegal behavior by debt collectors. (Business debts are not subject to the FDCPA.)

Before discussing the basic protections provided by the FDCPA, it is important to have a clear understanding of what debt collectors are.  Debt Collectors are hired on commission to collect accounts.  They may also purchase debts outright from creditors.

The initial contact between a collector and a debtor must include what is known as a "mini-Miranda" disclosure (alluding to the rights told to suspects when arrested, known as Miranda rights).  Any oral or written communication must include language that the “communication is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.”   All contact after the first must disclose that the call or letter is from a debt collector. 

Within 5 days of initial contact, a debt collector must provide in writing: (1) the amount of the debt; (2) the name of the creditor; (3) a notice that unless the consumer disputes the validity of the debt within 30 days, the debt will be considered valid; and (4) that the consumer can request verification.  All collection activities must cease during the validation process.  The collector cannot take any action during the first 30 days that overshadows the consumer’s right to dispute the debt.  If the debt collector does not provide the original creditor’s identity, the collection must cease.

            After initial contact, the FDCPA continues to protect the debtor from overreaching, harassing, and illegal activities.  Some of the most complained-about violations reported to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are:

    1.  Calling repeatedly to annoy/harass

    2.  Collecting unauthorized fees, interest, or expenses

    3.  Threatening dire consequences (arrest, property seizure)

    4.  Failing to identify debt collector

    5.  Calling at work after being told not to

    6.  Using abusive and/or obscene language

    7.  Calling third parties and revealing debt

    8.  Failing to verify a disputed debt

    9.  Calling before 8am and after 9pm

    10. Threatening violence

            Debts are private matters; not only is revelation to third parties a violation of the FDCPA, but communication that identifies the sender/caller as a debt collector or allows the contents to be read (e.g. postcards) is also a violation.  Debts beyond their statute of limitations cannot be collected.

If you think a debt collector has violated the FDCPA, complete a FREE CASE EVALUATION at www.letsbelegal.com, or call Mary Higgins (302-894-4357). You have one year to sue, and may be able to recover $1,000, plus actual damages. (This article is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice.  Your case should be reviewed by an attorney to determine the proper legal advice for your situation.)