The Fair Debt Collection Practices ACT (FDCPA) was established to protect consumers from aggressive, harassing, or threatening collection tactics by debt collection agencies. Most Americans with debt have likely encountered debt collection harassment at one point in time or another. It can be as subtle as an early morning phone call on the weekend, or as aggressive as a phone call that features threatening language.
The FDCPA not only protects consumers with debt from these aggressive tactics, but it also provides them with recourse against the debt collection agencies violating the guidelines of the law. What are the most common FDCPA violations you should be aware of?
Inconvenient and Excessive Phone Calls
This is perhaps the single most common violation of the FDCPA. There are two guidelines within the law that cover the time and frequency of contact debt collectors can have with a debtor. First and foremost, debt collection phone calls are prohibited between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Additionally, if you receive constant phone calls while you are at work or during business hours (if you work from home), and have told the debt collector to stop, they must abide by that request. Ignoring these guidelines is a violation of the FDCPA.
Lies and Deception
Another common tactic of debt collectors, and also a violation, is lying to or otherwise misleading debtors. If you receive a phone call regarding your debt and the collection agency tells you that you have no choice but to work with them, they are deliberately misleading. A common example would be student loan debt. Some collection agencies may tell you that your student debt cannot be discharged via other means or consolidated, when it reality it can be. They use this threat to coerce you into working with them.
Sharing Information with a Third Party
Debt collection agencies will try, in some cases, to shame debtors into paying their outstanding balances. Whether they post a list of debtors online or “accidentally” inform your friends, family, or neighbors of your debt status, it is a violation of your rights under the FDCPA. None of your debt information can be shared with third parties without your consent.
As we move down the list, these occurrences become rarer, but that doesn’t mean they never happen. There are those debtors who will field phone calls from debt collectors who waste little time intimidating them into settling their debts with that particular agency. If a debt collector threatens you with jail time, garnished wages, or a lawsuit, they most likely have no legal standing to do any of those things. Unless the individual calling you owns the debt in question, they do not possess the legal right to take any of these actions. Threatening you with jail time or a lawsuit is a way of scaring you into working with them to settle your accounts.
Trying to Collect on Invalid Debt
Finally, there are more cases than you might expect where debtors are threatened over debt that is not even valid. It is often a case of mistaken identity, outright fraud, or old debt that has been settled; but either way, there are third-party collectors who will work hard to convince you that you have debt when you know that not to be true.
Now that you know what violations are the most common, you know what language, behavior, and tactics to watch out for if you ever find yourself in a position of financial debt. Remaining alert and accurately documenting your debt can help you avoid these nasty tactics, and makes it easier to report violations to the Federal Trade Commission.