As much as I love Fun Fridays, recent new stories have led to this break in your regularly scheduled programming.
If you have ever been in debt, you may have received calls from debt collection agencies saying informing you that you have a debt that is in collections and must be paid. Currently, scammers have been calling people at all hours of the night, sometimes claiming to be police officers, telling them they have an old debt, and then threaten the target with physical harm and/or jail time. The callers are very convincing because they have already collected a substantial amount of personal information on their targets. This scam has taken nearly $4 million from victims.
So how can you protect yourself from scams like this? Knowledge is power, knowing about laws put in place to protect the consumer against unfair debt collection will be all the ammunition you need.
FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT (FDCPA)
The biggest part of this to remember is that anyone threatening you is either a) not following the FDCPA and you may have grounds to sue them, or b) a scammer trying to intimidate you into giving up money you do not owe. The FDCPA says that using, or threatening to use violence or other criminal actions to harm consumers, their property or their reputation are illegal under the FDCPA. Other illegal actions include obscene, profane, or offensive language. Calling the consumer repeatedly, hanging up, calling and not saying anything, anonymous phone calls, or any other telephone behavior intended to annoy, harass, or abuse the consumer, their family members, neighbors, or co-workers is also prohibited by the FDCRA.
Your rights covered under the FDCPA state that:
- you have the right to sue debt collectors individually or in class actions for violations of the law.
- you are protected against harassment; including excessive phone calls, abusive language, and threats of violence, harm, or arrest.
- the disclosure of existing debt by the collector, to others who are not authorized to know about the debt is prohibited.
- collectors are banned from making contact with consumers at inconvenient times; such as before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
- you have the right to seek proof that they, in fact, actually owe the money the debt collector wants.
If you have an attorney representing you about the debt and the collector knows this, they must stop contacting you, and contact your attorney instead. This is only true if the debt collector knows, or can easily find out, the name and contact information of your attorney. If an attorney is representing you and a debt collector calls, tell them the attorney representing you, and that they should contact the attorney, not you.
Any collector who contacts you claiming you owe payment on a debt is required by law to tell you certain information about the debt. That information includes:
- The name of the creditor
- The amount owed
- How you can dispute the debt or seek verification of the debt
If they don’t provide this information when they first contact you, they are required to send you a written notice including that information within five days of the initial contact.
**If it turns out that it is a legitimate debt collector that is not following the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372). You can also report any problems to your state’s attorney general.**
If you are in debt, and need help to get out, our friends at American Debt Enders can offer several solutions to fit your needs.
Stay alert and have a great weekend!