While it might seem debt collectors have all of the power when you owe money, certain restrictions are placed upon their actions. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, makes it illegal for debt collectors to engage in abusive, unfair, and deceptive activities. While the list of what constitutes these behaviors is quite lengthy, below are some of the primary things debt collectors cannot do.
A Few Bad Apples
Before we get into the list, it’s important to note the vast majority of debt collectors are professionals who take pride in doing their jobs well. These are folks who make it a point to respect the dignity of the people with whom they interact. Understanding this makes it easier to take these calls without adopting an adversarial tone, despite the natural discomfort you might feel.
In most cases, it’s not about who you are as a person, but rather what you can do to resolve the debt. To that end, these calls are often recorded — and you should record them too. Those recordings could become evidence in a court hearing, so make it a point to always remain civil, reasonable, and rational with the caller.
Once they’ve proven the debt is yours, explain the situation and try to come to a resolution you can handle comfortably.
Dealing with an Abusive Caller
Again, most debt collectors with whom you’ll come into contact are simply trying to do a job. However, the profession does attract some people who enjoy wielding the power they perceive themselves to have.
In those cases, you could find yourself exposed to some rather harsh and indifferent language. And yes, as many Freedom Debt Relief reviews describe, it can become unpleasant and stressful to deal with debt collectors over time — especially if they’re aggressive.
Before admitting responsibility for the debt, ask them to send you all of the information they have about it in writing, thank them for the call, and for complying with your request and hang up.
What Constitutes Abuse?
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the following activities are illegal.
1. Calling repeatedly over the course of a day, simply to harass you.
2. Threatening to publish your name and the details of your debt in a widely circulated publication or online (except to credit bureaus).
3. Threatening to inflict physical violence upon you or people for whom you care.
4. Engage in the use of obscene or profane language.
5. Infer they’re an attorney (unless they are) or representing a government organization.
6. Imply you’re guilty of criminal activity or threaten to have you imprisoned.
7. Contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you’ve granted them permission to do so.
8. Contact you at work after you’ve asked them not to do so.
9. Threaten to seize your property or garnish your wages — unless the type of debt makes this permissible and they actually intend to do so.
10. Contact you after being notified in writing you don’t want to be.
Again, this is just a partial list. You can find more at the Federal Trade Commission’s Debt Collection FAQs site.
What You Can Do About It
First of all, record every instance of communication you have with a collector — after telling them you’re doing so. Also keep every piece of written correspondence, whether it’s paper, email, or a text message.
File a grievance with your state’s attorney’s general office, the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. You can then sue them in the state or federal court within one year from the date of the incident. You can sue for damages, reimbursement for attorney’s fees, and court costs.
You Remain Responsible for the Debt
It’s important to understand though, you can still be held liable for the debt, even if you take a collector to court for engaging in some of the things debt collectors cannot do and win a judgment against them.