Debt harassment-an intro to the FDCPA

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that protects people from abusive debt collection. An affected consumer can recover $1,000 statutory damages for violations, plus actual damages (such as emotional distress) and attorneys fees. This means that if you hire a consumer lawyer, you may not have to pay attorneys fees unless you win your case and recover.

There are three requirements to the FDCPA:

1. The debt is a consumer debt. To qualify under the FDCPA, a debt must have been incurred by a real person (not a corporation) for personal, family or household purposes. If the debt was incurred with a business credit card, or even if it was incurred on a personal credit card for business reasons, the FDCPA will probably not apply.

2. The debt is being collected by a third party agency. The FDCPA does not apply where an original creditor (the credit card company itself, for example) is collecting the debt. Any debt buyer who purchases a debt after it is in default will have to follow the FDCPA. Any outside company that is hired to collect a debt will have to follow the FDCPA. And most attorneys who routinely collect debts will be subject to the Act.

3. There was a violation. There are many types of violations, a lot of which will be discussed in detail in future posts. But in general, debt collectors may not harass you. They may not use abusive language. They may not lie to you. And they may not threaten things that they can’t actually do (like putting you in jail).

Here are some examples of how debt collectors may violate the law:

– They insult you
– They yell at you or use foul language
– They threaten violence or other abuse
– They leave abusive voicemails
– They call neighbors, friends, family or your job
– They call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
– They call you after you told them not to
– They lie about the amount of your debt or what they can do to collect

If it feels wrong, it probably is. Consult a consumer attorney to discuss possible violations and how they can help.

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