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Debt collectors are regulated by numerous state and federal laws in their debt collection activities.  Most people know that debt collectors cannot abuse them on the phone or in writing--what many people don't know is that they have a lot of other legal rights, too.  For example, a debt collector cannot call you at work if they know that your employer prohibits it.  Debt collectors cannot tell others about your debts, like your neighbor or your co-worker.  Debt collectors cannot threaten to have you arrested if you do not pay your debts.  These are just a few of the numerous protections you have as a consumer.  Please click here to contact our office if you are experiencing debt collection harassment. 

 

Important Steps You Should Take

 

1.  Save copies of all letters from collection agencies.

2.  Save all voice mail messages from bill collectors.

3. Take notes of your conversations with the debt collector, including the date, time, telephone number, and name of the collector.  Use a Collection Communications Log to make notes.

4.  Send a dispute and verification letter to the debt collector by certified mail, return receipt requested.  Here's a sample Dispute and Verification Letter.

5.  Send a cease communication letter to the debt collector by certified mail, return receipt requested.  Here's a sample Cease Communication Letter.

6.   Contact the Valentine Legal Group for help.

 

Fair Debt Collections Practices Act ("FDCPA")

 

The deck is stacked against consumers with sophisticated debt collection tactics.  As a consumer, you should not hesitate to protect yourself and exercise your rights under the FDCPA.  The FDCPA prohibits any collection effort which violates any law.  That means, amongst other things, a collector must be respectful to you and cease communicating with you when you have a lawyer.   

 

We firmly believe that everyone should pay their debts.  However, we also believe that no debt collector ought to violate your rights to get payment.  It's that simple.  Your right to fair and legal debt collection activity cannot take a back seat to any debt collector's violation of state and federal law.

 

Who is Covered: Some Definitions

 

Consumer.  Any person who is alleged to owe a consumer debt.

Debt Collectors. According to the FDCPA, a debt collector is any person, other than the original creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to others.

Covered Debts. Any debt that is primarily for personal, family, or household purposes is covered under the FDCPA. Business and commercial debts are not covered.

 

How a Debt Collector Can Communicate With You

 

Communications Generally. A debt collector may communicate with you by mail, in person, by telephone or telegram. A debt collector cannot contact you at times or in places that they know are inconvenient to you, such as at work if your employer does not permit it. A debt collector cannot contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

Stopping Communications. If you send a written request to a debt collector demanding that they stop contacting you, the debt collector must stop contact immediately, but they may send one last communication to you advising you that they intend to take a specific action against you including filing a lawsuit.

Attorney Representation. If you are represented by an attorney concerning a consumer debt, the debt collector cannot communicate directly with you.  They must communicate with you through your lawyer.

Contacting Others. A debt collector has a right to contact other people in an effort to locate you. Debt collectors are not permitted to tell family, friends or neighbors that they are attempting to collect a debt from you.

 

Debt Validation

 

30-Day Validation Notice Requirements. Within five days after you are first contacted, a debt collector must send you written notice telling you the following:

   The amount of the debt.

   The name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed.

    A statement that unless you, within 30 days after receipt of the notice, dispute the validity of the debt, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector.

    A statement that if you notify the debt collector in writing, within the 30 day period, that the debt is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt and mail it to you. 

    Finally, a statement that the communication is from a debt collector attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose.

Rights While Debt Under Dispute. If you dispute a debt in writing within the 30 day validation period, a debt collector cannot continue to collect on the debt until they have sent you proof of the debt.

 

What a Debt Collector is Prohibited From Doing to You

 

Collection Fees Prohibited.  A debt collector may not charge you interest, fees, or collection charges, except those amounts that were authorized by the original agreement.

Harassment Prohibited.  A debt collector may not use any language, communication or conduct to harass or abuse any person. This includes prohibitions on:

    Use of threats of violence or harm to the person, property, or reputation. 

    Using obscene or profane language.

    Repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone or ring the telephone constantly.

    Calling people without identifying themselves.

False Statements Prohibited.  A debt collector may not use any false statements when trying to collect a debt. This includes:

    Falsely implying that they are an attorney or government representative.

    Falsely implying that you have committed a crime by not paying a debt.

    Falsely representing that they operate or work for a credit bureau.

    Misrepresenting the character, amount, or legal status of the debt.

Threats Prohibited.  A debt collector may not use threats when trying to collect a debt. This includes threats like the following:

    You will be arrested if you do not pay your debt.

    They will seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages, unless the collection agency or the creditor intends to do so and they have the right to do so.  

Unfairness Prohibited.  A debt collector may not treat you unfairly in attempting to collect a debt. This includes unfairness like the following:

    Collect any amount greater than your debt, unless allowed by law.

    Solicit a post-dated check in order threaten criminal prosecution or threaten to cash the check early. 

    Take or threaten to take your property unless this can be done legally, including wrongfully repossessing your vehicle.

 

We Can Help

 

Our firm primarily works with consumers whose rights have been violated under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act, and other consumer protection statutes.  Please click here to contact our office if you are experiencing abuse by a debt collector.