FDCPA – Your rights
Under various State and Federal laws, Debt Collection Agencies are strictly regulated to protect consumers. That’s where our firm wants to help. Most consumers already know that a debt collection agency is prohibited from abusing you on the phone or in writing–what many don’t know is that they have a lot of additional rights.
For example, Debt collection Agencies have to be very careful of who they tell about your debts. They cannot just tell anyone about your debts, like your next door neighbor or your co-worker. A debt collector cannot call you at work if they know that it is inconvenient for you or that your employer prohibits it. Additionally, Debt collection Agencies must be licensed by the State of Florida. These are just a few of the numerous protections you have as a consumer. If a debt collector violates your rights, our firm can help you.
Under these laws, as a consumer, you are afforded protections against debt collectors, both state and federal. Our firm works with consumers whose rights have been violated under the FDCPA and other consumer protection statutes.
Any consumer has the right to file a lawsuit against any debt collector who violates their rights under the FDCPA. The FDCPA allows a consumer to recover their actual damages, statutory damages of up to $1,000, and their attorney’s fees and costs. This is NOT a modest amount to a debt collector who violates the law there because there is much more at stake. This can cause a Debt Collection Agencies to have increased insurance rates, decreased collection rates, and possible government regulation. Plus, there are additional costs in defending a lawsuit for their illegal conduct.
Our firm believes that the deck is stacked against consumers because many Debt Collection Agencies use sophisticated debt collection tactics. As a consumer, you should not hesitate to shield yourself from these sharp practices and exercise your rights under the FDCPA. Our law firm has the experience, resources and ability to vigorously represent you in your FDCPA action against any debt collector. Our firm is dedicated to filing federal civil lawsuits against debt collectors who violate any state or federal law. This Federal Statute prohibits any collection effort which violates the law. To avoid violating the law, this means, a collector must tell the truth, be respectful to you, and cease communicating with you when you have a lawyer. Our firm can and will assist you enforce your legal rights and make illegal collection activity stop.
It’s simple, but not necessarily easy. Most of us want to pay our debts. We are responsible, but have encountered financial difficulties. Our firm believes that everyone should pay their just and owing debts, but there are also laws to protect those going through difficulties. For example, our country was founded on the historic legal principle which rejected placing a person in jail for failing to pay their debts. Likewise, we think that no debt collector ought to violate your rights to get payment. Your legal right to fair, legal, debt collection activity cannot take a back seat to any debt collector’s violations of state and federal law.
CONSUMER. Any person who owes or is alleged to owe a consumer debt.
DEBT COLLECTORS. According to the FDCPA, a debt collector is any person, other than the creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to others. It currently also includes attorneys who regularly collect debts.
COVERED DEBTS. Any debt that is primarily for personal, family, or household purposes are covered under the FDCPA. Please note that business and commercial debts are not covered. Other debts that are not covered are alimony, child support, criminal fines, and tort claims because they are not generally considered debts within the meaning of the FDCPA.
COMMUNICATIONS. 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 or during daytime sleep hours if you work nights. 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 (e.g., a consumer rights attorney such as our office, a bankruptcy attorney, or a family attorney), the debt collector cannot communicate directly with you except through your lawyer.
CONTACTING OTHERS. A debt collector cannot contact any third party about your debt. This means that they cannot call you sister-in-law, your grandson, or your neighbor about the debt. Debt collectors are not allowed to tell anyone but you and your attorney that you owe anyone else money.
LOCATING YOU. A debt collector has a right to contact other people once, and only once, in an effort to locate you. Debt collectors are not permitted to ask neighbors to bring you phone messages, ask you to come across the street for a phone call, or tell other people that they are attempting to collect a debt from you.
30-DAY VALIDATION NOTICE REQUIREMENT. Within five days after you are first contacted, a debt collector must send you a 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 thirty days after receipt of the notice, dispute the validity of the debt, or any portion of it, 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 thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against you and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to the consumer by the debt collector.
- A statement that, upon the consumer’s written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
- 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.
- Every debt collector who tries to collect your debt must provide their own 30-day validation notice, even if a previous debt collector has already given such notice.
RIGHTS DURING 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 or a copy of the judgment.
COLLECTION FEES PROHIBITED. A debt collector may not charge you an interest, fees, or collection charges, except those amounts that were authorized by the agreement with the creditor to whom the debt is owed.
HARASSMENT PROHIBITED. A debt collector may not use any language, communication or conduct to harass, oppress, or abuse any person. This includes prohibits on:
- Use threats of violence or harm to the person, property, or reputation.
- Advertise your debt or publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts, except to a credit bureaus.
- Use obscene or profane language.
- Repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone or ring the telephone constantly.
- Call 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 represent that they operate or work for a credit bureau.
- Misrepresent the character, amount, or legal status of the debt.
- Indicate that papers being sent are legal papers when they are not.
- Indicate that papers being sent are not legal papers when they are.
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.
- Take any actions against you which are illegal.
- Violate any law in an effort to collect a debt.
DECEPTION PROHIBITED. A debt collector may not use deception when trying to collect a debt. This includes deceptions like the following:
- Send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency when it is not.
- Give false credit information about you to anyone.
- Use a fake or false name, unless that name is allowed by state law and properly registered with the state, if required.
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.
- Deposit a post-dated check more than 5 days before the date on the check, without giving you notice of when they intend to deposit it.
- Solicit a post-dated in order threaten criminal prosecution or threaten to cash the check early.
- Make you accept collect calls or pay for telegrams.
- Take or threaten to take your property unless this can be done legally, including wrongfully repossessing your vehicle.
- Contact you by postcard.
PAYMENTS ON MULTIPLE DEBTS. A debt collector must apply you payments on multiple debts in the order you direct. A debt collector is prohibited from applying any payments you send in to debts that you believe you do not owe.
YOUR RIGHT TO SUE A COLLECTOR FOR VIOLATIONS OF THE FDCPA. You have the right to sue a debt collector within one year from the date you believe the law was violated. This is what our law firm does. If you do not bring you lawsuit within one year of the violation, your claim will be forever barred by a statute of limitations under the FDCPA. If you win your lawsuit, you may recover money for the actual damages you suffered, statutory damages of up to $1,000, plus court costs and your attorney’s fees. If you have been subjected to any of these illegal practices, contact us.
If you’re contacted by a debt collector, you have a right to dispute the debt either verbally or in writing. If you want to preserve some rights under the FDCPA, you must send a written dispute within 30 days of your receipt of the first “validation notice” from the debt collector via certified mail. Include in the letter your name, account number and other relevant information. Also be sure to include a request to a copy of the contract, bills, payments, and a breakdown of their fees. Finally, be specific about what other documents you feel are relevant to your dispute.
Even if you owe the debt, or you cannot pay, you still have rights under the FDCPA. Most of our clients owe the debt being collected but because of financial circumstances, or a dispute over the goods or services, they cannot pay it. In order to preserve your rights under the law, it’s important for you to keep good records of all of the contacts.
- Save copies of all letters and notices from collection agencies – this also means the envelopes [ certain logos are prohibited]
- Save all phone messages and voice mails- this is very important!
- Take notes of names and conversations with these bill collectors.
- Call your consumer rights attorney to help you recover your statutory damages of $1,000 even if you owe the debt.
If you have further questions or have been think you have been a victim under the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act, contact us.