FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-04-24
When consumers fall behind on making their payments, they have enough to worry about without harassment from creditors and debt collectors. Each year many consumers are plagued with debt collectors and creditors who use unsavory tactics, and the number of lawsuits against debt collectors and creditors rose in March. Fortunately, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act offer protection.
Some Protections Under Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair and deceptive practices to collect from consumers. The federal law applies to the collection of personal debt such as money owed on a credit card account, auto loan or medical debt. It does not apply to debt taken out for business use.
Debt collectors are restricted in how, when and where they may contact a consumer. Unless the consumer agrees to it, debt collectors cannot contact a consumer before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., and they may not contact a consumer at work if they have been informed that he or she is not allowed to receive outside calls at work.
Debt collectors cannot harass or abuse consumers. It is illegal for debt collectors to:
- Use threats of violence or harm
- Use obscene language
- Publicize the name of a person who refuses to pay debts
- Repeatedly call to annoy
Debt collectors can not lie when trying to collect a debt. It is illegal for debt collectors to:
- Falsely claim they are attorneys or government representatives
- Misrepresent the amount owed
- Claim the consumer will be arrested for non-payment of debt
- Threaten garnishment of wages unless it is permitted by law and the debt collector intends to follow through
- Threaten legal action if they do not intend to file a lawsuit
- Give false credit information
Finally, debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices to collect debt. For example, a debt collector may not attempt to collect interest unless the contract that created the debt allows for it. Consult an attorney to learn about further protections and to help stop creditor harassment.
Rights Under Fair Credit Reporting Act
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act addresses how consumers may access their credit reports, how credit reporting agencies must tend to the information in the report and how other parties may use the information in the report. It helps foster fairness, accuracy and privacy of information in credit reports used by credit reporting agencies.
Under the Act, consumers have the right to know what is in their file and have the right to ask for a credit score. Consumers also have the right to dispute inaccurate or incomplete information. Reporting agencies must correct or delete inaccurate or incomplete information used in credit reports, and reporting agencies may not report outdated negative information. Consumers may seek damages for any violations by reporting agencies of the FCRA.
If you are being harassed by debt collectors or believe your credit report contains an error, contact an experienced consumer rights attorney to discuss your legal options.