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Frequently Asked Questions About Fair Debt Collection

For quick answers about debt collectors and the law, click on the question below.

 

What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

A federal law that requires all debt collectors to treat you fairly and honestly when they try to collect money from you. It also makes it illegal to harass or abuse consumers and it gives you the right to recover actual damages and up to $1,000 (plus attorney fees) when a bill collector violates the law. That’s where we can help you. We believe that people should pay their debts but we also believe that no debt collector should violate your rights just to get your money.

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What kinds of debts are covered by the Act?

Debts that are personal, family, or household in nature.

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Who is a debt collector?

A person who regularly collects debts that are owed to someone else.

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How, when, and where can a debt collector contact you?

A debt collector can contact you in person, by phone, by mail, by telephone, by telegram, or by facsimile.  However, a debt collector may not contact you at an inconvenient time or place.  For example, a debt collector may not contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree, and may not contact you at work if you tell them not to.

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Is there anything that the debt collector must tell you about the debt?

Within 5 days following the debt collector’s first contact with you, the debt collector must send you a written notice that tells you : (1) how much you owe, (2) who you owe money to, and (3) what to do if you believe that you do not owe the money.

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What if the debt collector is collecting multiple debts from me?

If you owe more than one debt, then the debt collector must apply any payment to the debt that you indicate.  And, a debt collector may not apply any payment to a debt that you dispute.

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How do you stop a debt collector from contacting you?

You can write a letter to them and tell them to stop.  Once the debt collector receives the letter, they are not allowed to contact you again, except to tell you that further efforts to collect are being terminated or that the debt collector or creditor intends to take some specific action.  However, this does not erase the debt and you can still be sued by the debt collector or the creditor.

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Can a debt collector contact anyone else about my debt?

If you have an attorney, then the debt collector must contact the attorney.  However, if you do not have an attorney, the debt collector may contact other people to find out where you live, your phone number, and where you work. But a third party can usually only be contacted once and in most cases the debt collector cannot tell anyone other than you or your attorney that you owe money.

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What can you do if you believe that you do not owe the money?

If you write a letter to the debt collector within 30 days after you receive written notice of the debt stating that you do not owe the money, then the debt collector may not contact you.  However, the debt collector can resume contact with you if they send you proof of the debt.

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What types of debt collection practices are prohibited?

HARASSMENT

Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact in connection with the collection of a debt.

For example, a debt collector may not

  • Use threats of violence or harm
  • Use obscene or profane language
  • Publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau)
  • Repeatedly or continuously use the telephone to annoy you or your family

FALSE STATEMENTS

Debt collectors may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading statements in connection with the collection of a debt.

For example, a debt collector may not:

  • Tell you or imply that they are attorneys or government representatives when they are not
  • Misrepresent the amount of your debt
  • Threaten to arrest you if you do not pay the debt
  • Threaten to seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages if you do not pay the debt, unless such action is lawful and the debt collector or creditor intends to take such action
  • Tell you or imply that you have committed a crime when you have not
  • Communicate or threaten to communicate to anyone credit information which is known or should be known to be false
  • Indicate that papers sent to you are legal forms when they are not
  • Use false information to collect a debt from you or to obtain information concerning you
  • Threaten to take any action, such as a lawsuit, which cannot legally be taken or is not intended to be taken
  • Use a false name
  • Send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency, but is not
  • Indicate that papers sent to you are not legal forms when they are
  • Tell you or imply that they work for a credit bureau when they do not

UNFAIR PRACTICES

Debt collectors may not use unfair means to collect or attempt to collect any debt.

For example, a debt collector may not:

  • Collect an amount greater than your debt unless your state law permits such a charge
  • Prematurely deposit a post date check
  • Use deception to make you pay for collect calls or telegrams
  • Take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally
  • Contact you by postcard

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What can you do if you think a debt collector has violated the law in its dealings with you?

You have the right to sue the debt collector in state or federal court within one year from the date that the debt collector violated the law.  If you win, you can recover the damages that you suffered, plus an additional amount of up to $1,000, plus court costs and attorney fees.  You may also have a claim under state law if the debt collector’s actions have caused you severe emotional stress.

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What can you do if you believe you do not owe the money?

If you write a letter to the debt collector within 30 days after you receive written notice of the debt stating that you do not owe the money, then the debt collector may not contact you until they send you proof that you owe the bill.

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What about attorney fees? Hiring us is free.

If you can’t afford to hire an attorney, don’t worry. Federal law says that if you prove the bill collector violated your rights, the bill collector may have to pay for your attorney’s fees and court costs in addition to your damages. Because of this, we are able to handle your claim on a contingent fee basis so that you do not pay attorney’s fees “up front”. We usually will accept as full payment whatever a court awards us for our fees. Attorney’s fees are not related to the amount you recover. They are separate.

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Our law firm handles claims involving credit report errors, identity theft, repossession and other consumer fraud cases. We have been fighting to protect consumers for almost 30 years. Call us at 1-888-331-6422 or email us today for a Free Case Review!

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