Third-party debt collectors are currently having a heyday because millions of Americans
are in debt and behind on payments for an average amount of $1,400. Unfortunately,
there are many abusive debt collectors, a fact that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
is well acquainted with. The FTC, the federal consumer protection agency, is
responsible for enforcing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA); and they have
received an increasing number of calls from consumers who have been targeted by
scammers and abusive debt collectors. The FDCPA provides guidelines for debt
collectors and specifies that they are not allowed to use unfair, abusive, or deceptive
practices in order to collect on debts.
Debt collectors sometimes harass consumers as a result of a creditor’s mistake in
making it appear that you are behind on payments. In recent months, there have been
more and more consumers contacted and intimidated about debts they no longer owe
or never owed. Because of threats of such things as being taken to jail for failing to
make an immediate payment, some consumers have made payments even on debts
they are aware they don’t owe.
The FDCPA defines a debt collector as someone who routinely collects debts owed to
others. Debt collectors include lawyers who regularly collect debts, collection agencies,
and third-party debt collectors that purchase delinquent debts and attempt to collect
The types of debts addressed in the FDCPA include:
- Personal Debts
- Household debt
- Personal credit card
- Automobile loans
- Medical bills
Debts which are incurred for the purpose of running a business are not covered by the
The FDCPA is intended to protect consumers from abusive debt collectors and provides
guidelines, detailing certain actions which cannot be taken. For instance, debt
collectors may not contact you at places and times that pose an inconvenience to you.
They cannot call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.; and they cannot call at work if they are
informed either orally or in writing that you are not permitted to receive calls there.
In particular, there is a lot of information about what a debt collector cannot say in trying
to collect a debt, which will be covered in this continuing series. Also see Part 1 for
more information about debt collection.There is a way to stop debt collection calls, even if payment has not been made. In
writing, let the collector know that you do not want any further contact regarding the
debt. Before sending it, make a copy of the letter. Send the letter’s original via certified
mail, and be sure to get a return receipt so that you will have proof that the debt
collector received it. Once the letter is received, the debt collector can only contact you
further under two circumstances:
The debt collector can contact you to advise you that there will be no further contact;
and the debt collector can contact you to advise you of intent to take specific action,
such as filing a lawsuit.
Keep in mind that your debt is not erased simply because contact with a debt collector
has been halted; you can still be sued for the money you owe.
There is a lot of information about what a debt collector cannot say or do in trying to
collect a debt, which will be covered in this continuing series.
According to the FDCPA, the following are some things that debt collectors are not
allowed to do:
A debt collector cannot discuss your debt with your spouse, your employer, or anyone
else other than your attorney, if you have one. When you have an attorney who is
representing you in relationship to the debt, advise the debt collector, who is required to
contact the attorney rather than you from that point on. Keep in mind that a debt
collector can contact other people — such as relatives, employers, and friends – but
only to find out information such as your current phone number, your address, and your
place of employment.
Debt collectors cannot, by law, engage in any form of harassment toward you or third
parties that they may contact in an attempt to collect money on your debt.