The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law that governs what activities a debt collector can undertake to recover a debt and it also covers the manner in which they must treat individuals who owe a debt. In other words, it provides protections to consumers like you. Debt collection has traditionally been an area of law that is subject to abuse by those doing the collecting. The FDCPA is an attempt to even the playing field.
Under the FDCPA, a debt collector may not:
- Contact your employer about the debt;
- Contact your family about the debt;
- Contact neighbors about the debt;
- Threaten to garnish your wages in Pennsylvania;
- Threaten imprisonment or criminal sanctions if you don’t pay;
- Harass you regarding payment of the debt;
- Say that he/she is an attorney when he/she is not;
- Threaten to evict you or threaten to sell your house;
- Threaten to sue you where they have no intention of suing you;
- Add additional charges such as attorney fees to the alleged debt;
- Call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you give them permission to do so;
- Use obscenity, foul language, or racial slurs;
- Send letters which appear to have come from a court;
- Call you a deadbeat or other derogatory term;
If a debt collector or collection agency engages in any of the above conduct, or, does anything else that is illegal, you may have a claim against that collection agency. Each violation by the agency can amount to a possible $1000 civil fine which is payable to you. In addition, under the FDCPA, you are entitled to recover your reasonable attorney fees for bringing a claim against the debt collector/collection agency. That means that you get a free attorney to help you! Our office does not charge a retainer on FDCPA violation cases as we simply obtain our fees from the debt collector. As such, there is no reason to try to handle one of these claims by yourself. It costs nothing to you to obtain legal representation in these matters. Debt collectors know that we only take on solid claims, so many of these cases are settled out of court without a trial. After all, the more they fight, the more our legal fees increase. Since they’re responsible for paying our fees it makes sense for them to conclude the claim as quickly as possible.
Remember, the list above is not all inclusive. There are many other types of situations that may be violations of the FDCPA. My best advice to you is to keep track of all incoming documents and phone calls from collection agencies. When a debt collector calls you, find out who you are speaking to, note the time and date, and get a phone number if possible. This is the best evidence in a lawsuit against a debt collector. The more specific that you can be in describing the debt collection violation, the better your chances of winning.
If you have other debt collection threat or violation questions, please visit the remainder of our site for information. We have an FDCPA FAQ’s page and a page that discusses various threats that we have heard.
If you have a credit card company, a junk debt buyer or a collection agency attempting to collect a debt from you or making illegal threats, please contact my office at 412-348-8600 or send an email to Attorney Greg Artim