Know your Rights and Defend Yourself From Abusive Debt Collectors

by Five Fantastic Lawyers™ on August 2, 2012

(US Law) Unpaid debts and bankruptcies have become more prevalent than ever in today’s difficult economy. With high unemployment, impossible mortgage and car payments and skyrocketing medical costs, financial survival for the average American seems more difficult each month. When faced with these problems, people have become desperate trying to find a better way to manage their finances and pay their bills. Some find themselves facing bankruptcy while others for whom that is not the answer face contacts from overly aggressive and often abusive debt collectors and feel there is nothing they can do to stop collection calls.

Because it is the job of a debt collector to try and get as much as they can from the consumer, regardless of how it is done, they can often chose tactics that are meant to scare, upset and threaten people unnecessarily. A debt collector who behaves professionally and provides truthful information is not unheard of, but it is not as common as one might hope. This is because these employees, who are themselves viewed as debt collectors, are paid based upon how much they collect, and they often earn large bonuses and other rewards if they exceed their quota. This type of compensation arrangement only encourages collectors to use highly abusive and deceptive collection techniques to obtain as much as possible from the consumer as quickly as possible.

Abusive debt collectors may say horrible things, incite anger among family members, annoy neighbors and co-workers or even call employers in pursuit of payment, but none of these are permitted by law. In extreme cases, some debt collectors have been known to call or visit borrowers late at night, or pretend that they work for the sheriff (police), a government agency or the military, and can falsely threaten the right to arrest people if debts go unpaid. Others claim that suit is being filed in hours if the debt is not paid, or that a judgment has been secured. A few debt collectors even warn borrowers that they could face violent physical harm for failing to pay a bill.

How To Stop the Abuse

Fortunately, there are very strong laws which forbid this type of conduct. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits deception, abuse, threats of violence and other conduct.

The law also regulates methods that collection agents can use to contact people, for example, forbidding postcards or calls between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. Calls to places of employment are forbidden if the consumer tells the collector to stop calling there or if it is not permitted.

Additionally, debt collectors cannot represent themselves as being government employees or lawyers and cannot use a false caller ID.

If you feel that debt collectors are violating any of these provisions of the law, there are steps to take to put an end to it. First, you can mail a letter demanding no further communication with you. Retain a copy of the letter and send the original by certified mail if you can afford to do so. This will prevent the collector from claiming it did not receive your instructions. You can also take notes each time a call is received and track the details of any unlawful conduct or abuse.

You can also record the conversations or retain recorded voice mail, but if the call is live, you would be advised to clearly tell the collector that you are recording the call. Next, you can understand that debt collectors are not easy to deal with but that legal help is free, so calling a consumer lawyer to protect your rights is a very easy solution. Before doing so, like with anything else, research the firm or the lawyer before retaining them as a knowledgeable one will not charge and will tell you what can be done for you, without wasting your time. What can you win by hiring a lawyer? First, you can stop collection calls immediately. Second your lawyer may be able to recover both statutory damage of up to $1,000 and actual damages for any actual losses suffered.

Many states have additional protections in place above those provided by the FDCPA, so be aware of that too. In extreme cases, the Federal Trade Commission can prosecute debt collectors and fine or shut them down. The important things to remember are that you have very strong legal rights and you have access to free legal representation when dealing with abusive debt collection companies.

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