Debtor Harassment Protection: FDCPA Violations and Lawsuits

Every citizen has a legal right to be protected from the harassment of third party bill collectors, as guaranteed under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). There are certain practices that such bill collectors are prohibited from employing in their collection efforts, and if a debtor is subjected to those practices, they have the right to file a complaint against that collector. If the abusive behavior continues, the debtor has the right to file a lawsuit against them.

FDCPA Protections

Each debtor should be aware of the wide range of protections they have under the FDCPA. In addition, it is important to remember that this law applies only to third party bill collectors. Original creditors are not required to abide by these restrictions.

The most common abuses prohibited under the FDCPA include:

  • Calling repeatedly or at unreasonable hours (generally after 9 p.m. or before 8 a.m.)
  • Failing to identify themselves as bill collectors
  • Contacting debtors at work if employers prohibit it
  • Using obscene or profane language
  • Making false claims, that the debtor owes more than they owe, that the collector is an attorney when they are not, claiming legal proceedings will occur when they have no intention of pursuing them, sending documents that appear legal to cause additional fear and pressure
  • Adding interest, fees, and charges that are not authorized
  • Contacting third parties, such as family members, to harass them (although they may do so to learn the debtor's whereabouts)

Filing Complaints

Debtors have a right to stop all collection efforts by a third party agency by simply putting their request in writing. The only contact the agency can make at that point is to inform the debtor if the collection efforts are being terminated, or to inform them of the agency's legal steps to pursue collection.

If the agency continues to call or harass the debtor, they have other options:

  • Log the abuse, including date, time, and content
  • File a complaint in writing with the FTC office in Washington, DC., and attach any copies, tapes, or documentation of the abusive behavior. Send a copy to the state office that oversees collection efforts, and send copies to the original creditor and the collection agency, as well.

It may take time for the FTC to address such a complaint, since they now receive thousands of such complaints every year. However, if they do address it and the abuse continues, the debtor has the right to file a lawsuit against the agency. If they have a valid case, they may receive any actual financial damages, such as compensation for counseling or therapy if the abuse brought on extreme anxiety, or the costs of changing a phone number. In addition, there is a statutory award of $1,000 for violating the FDCPA rules.

Getting Legal Help with the FDCPA Violations and Lawsuits

Debtor should not have to have to face abusive bill collectors while fighting to save their home or financial future. However, determining how best to stop such abuse can be difficult. It may be wise to consult a bankruptcy attorney to help them determine their next step for financial solutions, and ask them to help stop the bill collector abuse at the same time. They may be on the path to debt resolution in both areas with the right kind of legal counsel.

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