Illegal Debt Collection Practices

Creditors have a right to be paid. But debt collectors have to follow the rules in seeking payment. There are a number of illegal debt collection practices, and debtors have a right to object—or file a complaint—if collections agencies try to use them.

Illegal Debt Collector Actions

Among the banned debt collection practices are following:

  • Contacting third parties such as relatives, neighbors, or employers.
  • Threatening a lawsuit, a bad credit rating, repossession, or garnishing wages. It's making empty threats that's illegal—a debt collector may inform a debtor of actions it legitimately intends to take.
  • Making repeated telephone calls, or calls at unreasonable times.
  • Calling at an inappropriate place.
  • Telling an employer about the debt.
  • Making obscene or racist remarks.
  • Sending fake court letters.
  • Trying to collect charges not actually in the loan or credit agreement.
  • Bringing an action in a distant court, to make it inconvenient for the debtor.
  • Lyingany kind of lying, including misidentifying the debt collector as someone or something else.
  • Threatening arrest—there's no such thing as debtors' prison.

Legal Debt Collection Actions Requiring Court Order

Many things that a debt collector can do can only be done with a court order—which means after taking the debtor to court and winning. For example, a debt collector or creditor can't simply take part of your salary or income—that's illegal debt wage garnishment and an illegal debt collection tactic. (Legal wage garnishment requires that court order, and is subject to various limits anyway.) Similarly, they can't automatically put a lien on your home or take your car.

Any course of illegal debt collection dealing with debtors that violates the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act or involves fraud, intimidation, threats, deception, etc. is an illegal debt collections practice. It's not allowed, so don't be intimidated if you're contacted by collections—you have rights.

Debt Collection Legal Help

An experience debt collection lawyer can help you protect and assert those rights. An attorney can also help you negotiate with creditors and their collections agencies. If you owe enough that it's worthwhile for someone to aggressively pursue you, you owe enough to make hiring a lawyer worthwhile.

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