It’s bad enough being behind on your bills, but it’s even worse to be in debt AND in the dark, when it comes debt collection. If you’re delinquent, it’s imperative that you know how the process works, and what your rights are. To that end, here are some helpful debt collection FAQs.
What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?
FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from using unfair, abusive, or misleading practices when collecting debts. The legislation is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission.
What Kinds of Debts Does FDCPA Cover?
Basically, everything except business debts. This means your vehicle loans, credit card debt, your mortgage, etc.
Are Debt Collectors Free to Contact Me Whenever or Wherever?
Nope. In fact, they may not contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree to those time frames. They also aren’t permitted to phone you at work if you tell them not to.
How are Collectors Allowed to Contact Me?
To collect what they say you owe, debt collectors can phone you, send you a letter or e-mail, or even text you.
Can I Stop a Debt Collector from Contacting Me?
Yes. Send the collection agency a letter via certified mail, spending a few extra bucks for a return receipt, requesting that it cease contacting you. You want to be able to prove the collector received it. After it receives your request, the only reason the collector can contact you is to acknowledge, and agree to, your request. The agency also may contact you to inform you that you’re about to be sued. Note, though, that if the debt is legit, you still owe it.
Can a Debt Collector Contact Others About My Debt?
No. They can only broach your obligation with you or your spouse or attorney. Now, they can contact others to learn where you live, or what your phone number is. However, they can only contact them once, and are prohibited from telling them about your outstanding debt.
What Must a Collector Tell You About the Debt?
A collector must “validate” your debt in writing within the five days of their initial contact. They’re obliged to tell you how much you owe, the name of the creditor, how to get the name of the original creditor, and your recourse if you don’t believe the debt is yours. If you do acknowledge it as yours and need help paying, get help at www.achieve.com.
What if I Don’t Believe the Debt is Mine?
Seek verification of the debt. After you get it, and you don’t recognize the debt, dispute it in writing within 30 days. After the agency gets the letter, it must cease attempting to collect until it mails you written verification such as a copy of the original bill. Be sure to keep copies of all your correspondences for your records.
What are Debt Collectors Prohibited from Doing?
In addition to not calling during certain hours, collectors may not:
- Use profane language or threaten to hurt you
- Repeatedly call you with the aim of annoying or harassing you
- Lie to you regarding the amount you owe; pretend to be a lawyer or a government employee; or tell you that you’ll be arrested.
- Try to collect money – interest, fees, etc. – on top of what you owe
- Deposit a post-dated check early
- Publicly reveal your debts, such as by putting information on business envelopes
What if I Want My Payment to Go to Another Debt?
That is your right. If an agency is attempting to collect multiple debts from you, it must apply any payment tendered to the debt of your choosing.
What if I Get Sued?
To preserve your rights, make certain that you respond by the deadline on your court document. You can do so by yourself or through your attorney. Note that before a collector can garnish you – take money from your paycheck or bank accounts – it must receive a judgment against you. Before the, however, you’ll usually still have time to work out a payment plan.
Keep these debt collection FAQs handy in case you need them. If you’re already in a bad place regarding your obligations, you may need debt settlement. For that, we recommend Freedom Debt Relief.