If a debt collector violates the FDCPA when trying to collect a debt, consumers may sue for damages such as lost wages and medical bills incurred to to the illegal collection practices or attempts. However, if the debt is owed, it is not forgiven just because a collection agency has broken the law. Below are some Frequently Asked Questions from the Federal Trade Commission about consumer rights after being referred to a collection agency.
The Act covers personal, family, and household debts, including money you owe on a personal credit card account, an auto loan, a medical bill, and your mortgage. The FDCPA doesn’t cover debts you incurred to run a business.
No. A debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night, unless you agree to it. And collectors may not contact you at work if they’re told (orally or in writing) that you’re not allowed to get calls there.
Debt collectors can contact you by phone, letter, email or text message to collect a debt, as long as they follow the rules and disclose that they are debt collectors. No matter how they communicate with you, it’s against the law for a debt collector to pretend to be someone else — like an attorney or government agency — or to harass, threaten or deceive you.
If a collector contacts you about a debt, you may want to talk to them at least once to see if you can resolve the matter – even if you don’t think you owe the debt, can’t repay it immediately, or think that the collector is contacting you by mistake. If you decide after contacting the debt collector that you don’t want the collector to contact you again, tell the collector – in writing – to stop contacting you. Here’s how to do that:
Make a copy of your letter. Send the original by certified mail, and pay for a “return receipt” so you’ll be able to document what the collector received. Once the collector receives your letter, they may not contact you again, with two exceptions: a collector can contact you to tell you there will be no further contact or to let you know that they or the creditor intend to take a specific action, like filing a lawsuit. Sending such a letter to a debt collector you owe money to does not get rid of the debt, but it should stop the contact. The creditor or the debt collector still can sue you to collect the debt.
Harassment. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, they may not:
False statements. Debt collectors may not lie when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
Debt collectors also are prohibited from saying that:
Debt collectors may not:
Unfair practices. Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, they may not:
For a full list of FAQs and additional resources on the unfair or deceptive practice of debt collection, visit the FTC website. If you have been harassed, abused, deceived or otherwise treated unfairly by a collection agency, please contact us for a free consultation.