I have found that many people who are going through a financial crisis just accept the punishment inflicted upon them by abusive debt collectors. It is almost as if they believe that abusive debt collection is the price to pay for being unable to pay all of their bills. This plays into the psychology of debt that I see everyday in my law practice – people want to pay their bills and feel terrible when they can’t. But almost without exception the reason that a debt is not being paid is because the person simply can’t afford it due to the loss of a job, reduction in salary, or serious medical problem within the family. While debt collectors have the right to call you and attempt to get payment they are required by federal law to do so with respect and fairness. And if they don’t treat with you respect and fairness they need to be held accountable.
Illegal Debt Collector Tactics Under the FDCPA
Here are 5 common tactics that debt collectors employ in trying to get you to pay them money that are prohibited by the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA):
Contacting Family Members
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from contacting any third party to discuss your debt. Often debt collectors will contact your family members under the guise of trying to obtain contact information about – which they can do. However, in many cases the debt collector has a current address and maybe even a current phone number but still calls family members to “find out where you are”.
This type of contact is a violation of the FDCPA. The debt collector knows that you likely don’t want your family members involved in this matter and as such these types of calls will put more pressure on you to pay simply to get the calls to stop. They are breaking the law and can be held accountable.
Contacting You at Work
The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from contacting you at work when they know that the employer does not allow such calls. If the debt collector has called you at work and you have told them that they aren’t to contact you there, and yet they continue to make the calls they are violating the law. Again, just as with contacting family members the debt collectors know that you don’t want to be contacted at work and that most people will do whatever they can to make the calls stop.
Profane or Abusive Language
Debt collectors cannot yell or swear at you while trying to collect a debt. If they do, they are violating the FDCPA.
Pretending to be a Lawyer
Debt collectors really don’t have any power over you. Typically they are collecting on unsecured debts, meaning that there is no property for them to try and take if you don’t pay. So they are left will calling you and being annoying or suing you. If the debt collector calls up and states that they are a lawyer or that they will sue you – they had better in fact be a lawyer or they are in violation of the FDCPA.
False, Deceptive, or Misleading Representation
A catch-all provision of the FDCPA is that it bars debt collectors from stating anything that is false, deceptive, or misleading. This includes misleading or false information on possible consequences of not paying them money. While debtor’s prisons were outlawed long ago I hear on a regular basis that debt collectors will threaten jail as a consequence to not paying a debt.
You will not go to jail for failing to pay a debt. If a debt collectors is making any threat to you that turns out to not be true, they can be held liable under the FDCPA. If you feel you have been mistreated by a debt collector, give me a call and I would be happy to help you evaluate your potential FDCPA claim.