Some debt collectors try to collect debts in abusive ways, such as by making false threats, calling at unreasonable hours and threatening to inform employers of an alleged debt. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits such abusive practices. Read about the purpose of the FDCPA here.The FDCPA lists behavior by debt collectors which is prohibited, including:
- Telling or threatening to tell other people that you owe a debt (without your permission)
- Sending you mail that indicates you owe a debt (on the outside of the envelope)
- Calling you at an unusual or inconvenient place or time (assumed to be outside 8am to 9pm)
- Threats of violence
- Using obscene or profane language
- Repeated telephone calls intended to annoy, abuse or harass
- Pretending to be a government agency
- Pretending to be an attorney when they are not
- Lying to you about the amount of the debt and the things they can do to collect the debt.
- Falsely telling you that you have committed a crime
- Lying to you to persuade you to pay the debt
Maryland also has a law regulating debt collectors: the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act (MCDCA). This statute differs from the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in three important ways: (1) the statute of limitations is three years instead of one year; (2) it applies to original creditors as well as third party collectors; and (3) a victim can recover for emotional distress “with or without accompanying physical injury.” Violation of the MCDCA is also a per se violation of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act.
Debt buyers are businesses that purchase consumer debt and then attempt to collect the debt from the consumer. Debt buyers buy debts for cents on the dollar, but attempt to collect the whole debt from the consumer. Often, they attempt to collect the debt by suing the consumer.
Debt buyers, like all debt collectors, are subject to the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, as well as Maryland debt collection law.
If you feel you are being harassed by a debt collector, keep a log of the debt collectors calls, keep any correspondence the debt collector sends you. You can complain about misconduct by a debt collector to two agencies: the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation here and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau here.