While no one wants to receive a letter or call from a debt collector, there is no reason to be afraid when one tries to contact you. The Federal government has passed laws that prevent debt collectors from using abusive, deceptive, or unfair practices when trying to collect a debt. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, is the primary law which places restrictions on how debt collectors can contact you. Here are some things you should know and keep in mind the next time a debt collector tries to contact you.
When Can a Debt Collector Contact Me?
According to the FDCPA, unless they have received permission from you or from a judge a debt collector cannot contact you at an unusual or inconvenient time or place. But what does that mean? A debt collector can only contact you between the hours of 8am and 9pm in your local time, not theirs. They also can not call your phone excessively each day, whether you answer or not. If you tell a debt collector they cannot contact you at work, they are not allowed to contact you while you are there. Also, if the debt collector knows you have hired an attorney for the debt, they cannot contact you. For example, if the debt collector has filed a lawsuit against you and you have hired an attorney to represent you in that lawsuit.
How Can a Debt Collector Contact Me?
A debt collector can contact you by phone or mail, but not by post card. Regardless of how they try to contact you, the debt collector must tell you who they are, that they are attempting to collect a debt and that any information they learn will be used for that purpose. The debt collector cannot misrepresent any information about the debt. They cannot say you have committed a crime, threaten to have you arrested or thrown in jail, yell or swear at you, or try to trick you into giving them information.
Who Can a Debt Collector Talk To?
Unless they have received permission from you or a judge, a debt collector can not talk to anyone but you, your attorney, a credit bureau, the creditor they purchased the debt from, or their attorney about any debt they claim you owe. There are exceptions to this rule if the debt collector is attempting to locate you, then they are allowed to talk to third parties to get the information they need. However, during these conversations there are still several protections in place for you. The debt collector must identify themselves to the caller, explain they are trying to locate you, but they cannot say that you owe any debt, that they are debt collectors or anything that indicates the conversation is related to the collection of a debt. If you have an attorney, they can only contact your attorney to get this location information.
While it seems, there are a lot of rules and restrictions you need to remember the next time you are talking to a debt collector or reading one of their letters it can be summed up relatively simply: a debt collector must be honest and upfront in any of their communications with you. A failure on their part can expose them to legal consequences, not just under the FDCPA but under a number of consumer protection laws.
If you think a debt collector has deceived, harassed, or misrepresented themselves to you, give us a call to speak to one of our attorneys. Our attorneys have handled matters like these all over Pennsylvania. Consultations are free at Starks Law. When you call, we can go over your legal matter and create an action plan tailored to your needs, situation, and goals. Additionally, you can read more about how to file an FDCPA claim and how we may be able to assist.