If you’re in debt or owe some money, you’re not alone! It’s estimated that 80 percent of Americans have some form of debt, for things like a mortgage, rent, student loans, credit cards, medical debt, or condo/HOA fees. Perhaps the debt is the result of identity theft, or from surprise medical bills. Here’s where debt collection practices come in.
Whatever the source or cause of the debt, it’s important to understand that debtors have important consumer rights. And just because you owe money doesn’t mean that debt collectors can engage in unfair or deceptive or abusive collection tactics.
That’s why it’s so important to understand which debt collection practices are legal and which cross the line between legal and illegal.
In this post, we’re going to go over 5 illegal debt collection practices you should be aware of.
1. Contacting Third Parties About Your Debt
Debt collectors cannot generally tell other people about debts that you owe. Here are the exceptions:
- Your attorney.
- The original creditor or its attorney.
- Your spouse (or parents if you’re under 18).
- Anyone who is also responsible for the debt.
- The creditor reporting agencies.
- With the express permission of a court, anyone.
- With your express permission, anyone.
Otherwise, contacting third parties about your debt is illegal. Debt collectors can sometimes ask third parties how they can reach you – but only if they can’t find you, and even then, they cannot tell anyone about your debt, or even that they’re trying to reach you to collect a debt.
Debt collectors may resort to contacting others in order to try and force your hand. They may try to contact your friends, other family members, neighbors, coworkers, bank, and/or children. Or, they may threaten to do so. With very few exceptions (such as to obtain location information), legally they cannot do this.
This is a violation of your rights.
If you know that a collector is doing this, contact a consumer rights attorney immediately. This violates your rights and can significantly impact your life.
2. Calling at Very Early or Very Late Hours
Getting a phone call early in the morning or late at night demanding that you pay a debt is unsettling and scary — and that’s why shady debt collectors often resort to this tactic. It puts you on edge, makes you feel vulnerable in your own home, and can affect the people you live with.
The good news is that federal law prohibits debt collectors from calling you at odd hours. Debt collectors are only allowed to contact you between 8 AM and 9 PM.
If collectors continue to call past those hours, they may be breaking the law. If this is happening to you, contact a lawyer to see if you are a victim of debt collection harassment.
3. Pretending to Be Someone Else
When talking to you, debt collectors are required to state who they are and who they work for.
Some debt collectors don’t fully identify themselves, and then they take it another step farther. Not only will they fail to ID themselves, but they also often pretend to be someone else, usually a government official or a lawyer, all in an attempt to intimidate and scare you into paying.
As you can probably guess, these are illegal debt collection practices. It’s also against the law to pretend that they’re communicating these demands for a government agency or lawyer.
4. Lying to You
One of the most important protections in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is that debt collectors aren’t allowed to lie to you. Misleading collection letters or calls are prohibited. This means that they can’t give you false information about:
- The amount of your debt
- What they can do collect the debt
- What will happen if you don’t pay
- What your rights are
Sometimes collectors will use false threats to pressure you to pay. They might claim, for example, that if you don’t pay, they’ll sue you, when really they have no legal basis to do so.
They might talk about garnishing your wages or putting a lien on your home as if they are inevitable, or as if they don’t have to go to court to do those things. They might also threaten to do things that violate the FDCPA itself, like talking to third parties about your debt.
If a debt collector is using misleading statements to try to get you to pay, then you should contact a debt collection defense attorney.
5. Harassing You
Debt collectors may resort to threats, debt collection harassment, intimidation, and other similar tactics in order to collect debts. Harassment and threats against you in order to collect a debt is illegal.
Examples of this type of harassment include:
- Threaten or use of violence or harm against you or your loved ones
- Using curses, obscene, and/or insulting language
- Threaten arrest
- Publishing your name and/or information about your debt
- Call repeatedly or at inappropriate hours
- Threaten to harm you or a loved one’s reputation
Are You Experiencing Illegal Debt Collection Practices? The Holland Law Firm Can Help
Some debt collectors will stop at nothing to collect your debt — even if it means debt collection harassment and/or illegal debt collection practices.
Illegal debt collection practices don’t end with this list, either.
If you’ve been experiencing harassment, threats, or other illegal debt collection practices, don’t give up. Give us a call.
We have years of experience defending consumers and debtors against debt collection harassment and violations of their rights. We’re here to help.