At Morrison, Sherwood, Wilson and Deola, we pride ourselves on helping consumers resolve their debt issues whether it is through bankruptcy or otherwise. But just because you owe a debt does not give a debt collector the right to harass, threaten or otherwise treat you unfairly. In order to protect consumers against abusive debt collection practices, Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Under the FDCPA it is illegal for a debt collector to:
Harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, a debt collector may not:
use threats of violence or harm;
publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts (but they can give this information to the credit reporting companies);
use obscene or profane language; or
repeatedly use the phone to annoy someone.
Make false statements or lie when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives;
falsely claim that you have committed a crime;
falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company;
misrepresent the amount you owe;
indicate that papers they send you are legal forms if they aren’t; or
indicate that papers they send to you aren’t legal forms if they are.
Threatening you. For example, a debt collector may not threaten that
you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt;
they’ll seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so; or
legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action.
Debt collectors also may not:
give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company;
send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t; or
use a false company name.
Engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt – or your state law – allows the charge;
deposit a post-dated check early;
take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally; or
contact you by postcard.
If you have been treated this way by a debt collector, it is likely in violation of the FDCPA, and you may have a remedy. If a debt collector is found to have violated the FDCPA you may be entitled to $1,000 in statutory damages or your actual damages.