Debt collectors get a bad reputation for being aggressive and deceitful to individuals who owe a past due bill. What consumers may not know, however, is that there is regulation meant to protect against this behavior. Not only is the debtor protected from obscene language or outright lies, but there are several other matters that violate what's known as the FDCPA or Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Consumers have a choice to report bad behavior if they are aware of their rights.
typical violations of the FDCPA
Calling... and Calling... and Calling
Debt collectors and collection agencies are not allowed to call excessively. They must also adhere to the rules of calling only between the hours of 8 am and 9 pm local time. Calls to a debtor's workplace is also prohibited if the employer will not allow it and the debtor has informed the collector by phone or in writing.
Lying about what is owed
Surprisingly, debt collectors may try to collect on amounts above and beyond what is actually owed. They may demand certain fees or charges that were not part of the original agreement between debtor and creditor. It is important the debtor review and validate these charges before paying.
Contact third parties
Collectors are not allowed to contact third parties to discuss a debt unless they were given express consent by the debtor. The only reason they may legally contact a third party is to attempt to locate the individual who owes the payment. They may also not contact repeatedly or harass these third parties.
Refuse to Identify
One clue that a debt collector isn't legitimate is if they refuse to identify themselves and what creditor they represent. This refusal should be a glaring red flag that the call is from a fake agency or collector.
Refuse to validate
A debtor must be allowed to validate the debt that they are being called on. Once a collections agency notifies the individual that they owe a debt, the individual has 30 days to validate or dispute the debt. The collections company is not allowed to continue collections procedures until after the debt is validated or disputed.
Ignore written request to cease communication
Debtor's rights include requesting, in writing, that the collections agency to cease communication. The collector can then contact the debtor only once to communicate further efforts to collect or if the collections efforts will be stopped.
Threaten, slander or harass
Obscene language, threats to sue (unless they are actually pursuing legal action), law enforcement threats, name-calling, aggressive language. threatening harmful behavior, and otherwise harassing behavior is prohibited by the FDCPA.
Reporting Bad Behavior
Consumers do have options to report collections agencies who violate the FDCPA. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created to help enforce laws such as the FDCPA. Individuals can submit a complaint on the CFPB website. The Federal Trade Commission protects consumer from unfair or fraudulent business practices and accepts consumer complaints. Debtors also have the option of contacting their state attorney general's office.
There are collectors and collections agencies who adhere to the rules of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. These agencies abide by the principles of respecting the customer, offering empathy while firmly attempting to collect on their client's behalf. The FDCPA also protects these collection agencies and ensures their success while penalizing those who continue to violate the rules. Education of the consumer and the collector leads to higher recovery rates and consumers who are more willing to work with their creditors.