The law limits the tactics creditors can use to try to collect a debt from you. It is helpful to know your rights as a consumer so you can protect yourself from illegal collection attempts.
Bankruptcy attorney Elizabeth German discusses your rights, and creditors’ boundaries, in this informative and interesting video.
If You Need Help Fighting a Creditor
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(A transcript follows the video.)
What should you do when you start to get collection mailings and collection calls from your creditors? Do you know what tactics are considered illegal collection attempts?
My name’s Elizabeth Domenico, I’m an attorney at Robinson & Henry in the bankruptcy and debt resolution practice area.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act & Illegal Collection Attempts
I wanna take a few minutes to talk to you about a law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, because a lot of times people call and ask me what a creditor can and can’t do.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which is a Federal law, although we have a similar statute here in Colorado that essentially says the same things, the creditor, now you have to be making a distinction. The creditor has to be a debt collector or a third party servicer. This law does not apply to an original creditor who you owe the money directly to.
It Does Not Apply to Your Original Creditors
So if you owe Citibank directly for a credit card, if a representative from Citibank calls you, unfortunately, this law does not apply, and they can call you as many times as they want in attempt to collect that debt.
It Only Applies to Personal Debt
So I’m only talking about debts from a third party collection agency or a debt collector. And the other thing on a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, remember, is it only applies to personal debt.
If you own a small business and the debt is assigned to the business, this rule does not keep those creditors, who the business owes money to, from calling you directly or attempting to collect the debt as it relates to a business debt.
The FDCPA Dos & Don’ts
When Creditors Can Phone You
So in terms of phone calls, creditors cannot call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. under the statute. Unless you give them specific permission, sometimes they ask you the best times to call between, and if you put before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., and they have it in writing, they would be able to contact you during that time.
How Many Times Creditors Can Call You
Now a lot of people think there’s a limit on the number of times they can call you. Certainly, the courts, if you brought it to their attention, would look at the number of calls in a duration and period of time to determine whether it was excessive. But under the law, there’s no limit on the number of times that they can call you.
What Creditors Can Actually Say to You
Now what can they say and they can’t say during this conversation. Unless they already have a court order, they cannot threaten to throw you in jail, due to non-payment of the debt.
The only way you could actually go to jail would be if you had a legal action that resulted in a judgment and you failed to answer certain court documents. So they can’t threaten you with jail time.
They cannot threaten you with a lawsuit, unless they actually have the ability to file. So if it’s something outside the statute of limitations or the debt is too old and they don’t have legal standing, they may not be able to tell you that.
Who Creditors Can Contact About Your Debt
They can call family members and friends, and even your place of work to try to find you.
They’re not allowed to reveal what type of debt it is, how much you owe, or any other personal information, but to the extent that you’ve given other sources of contact for a spouse or someone else, they can contact other individuals to try to get information on your whereabouts.
Creditors & Written Collection Attempts
In terms of writings, a lot of people wanna know how they can get a collection agency to stop writing them.
You can inform them in writing that you’d no longer like them to contact you, and once they receive that, they have to legally stop.
What to Do if You Do Not Believe You Owe the Debt
In addition, some people think, I don’t think I owe that debt, they’re still contacting me, what should I do?
Well, within 30 days of receiving the communication that you owe a debt that you don’t think you owe, you should notify them in writing that you want verification of the debt. If they don’t provide that to you, they are no longer allowed to contact you.
When to Call an Attorney
If they do provide it to you, and you do not believe it’s still your debt, you need to talk to an attorney. We handle a lot of those debt disputes where you actually have identity theft or something else, someone with a similar name.
We’ve even seen it being resulted in liens putting on the inappropriate party’s house. So if you get any kind of indication from a collection notice or a call, and you don’t think it’s yours, you need to reach out immediately so we can evaluate what your options are at that point.
The long and short of it is is there’s no, unfortunately, hard and fast rule for number of communications, what actually results in some liability.
Give us a call if you think you are getting illegal collection attempts or if the creditors are not being up-front with what you actually owe. We can evaluate and see what options you have for debt workout. We offer consultations, so give us a call, we’ll be happy to discuss your options.