Debt collection rules
There are very specific rules regulating what debt collection agencies can and cannot do when attempting to collect unpaid debts. Most of these regulations are set forth by states under various consumer protection laws as well as the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
- Falsely accuse the debtor of fraud or other crimes
- Use or threaten to use violence or other criminal acts to collect the debt
- Threaten arrest of the debtor, or threaten to repossess or seize property of the debtor without proper court proceedings
- Make collect telephone calls to the debtor without disclosing the true name of the caller before the charges are accepted
- Harass the debtor or the debtor's family with frequent communication, by calling anonymously, or making frequent or continuous calls
- Use profane or obscene language
- Mail any documents to the debtor that falsely appear to be from a court or other official agency
- Misrepresent the amount of the debt or falsely claim that legal action has been taken.
Debt collector limitations
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act also governs debt collection practices, specifically regulating those collectors who work for professional debt collection agencies and attorneys hired to collect debts. In addition to state law the federal act also provides that collectors cannot:
- Communicate with a debtor before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Call the debtor at work if the collector has reason to know that the debtor's employer does not permit such calls
A consumer who disputes a debt should send written notice to the debt collector detailing the nature of the dispute. The debt collector must then provide the consumer with information on how to contest the debt, and, upon request, must assist the consumer in completing the necessary forms.
The debt collector must respond to a consumer's request within 30 days after receiving the written notice of the dispute, and must correct any improperly reported item.
A consumer who feels a debt collector is using improper, harassing, or fraudulent collection methods should notify the collector in writing that he or she wants to stop all further contact from the collector.
The consumer should keep a copy of the letter and mail the original to the collector by certified mail. A consumer also may seek a civil injunction and damages against a collector, and/or may report violations to the Office of the Attorney General to determine if civil or criminal actions may be taken against the collector.
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