The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) regulates how debt collectors must conduct themselves when attempting to collect debts. The FDCPA offers important legal rights to debtors that include protection from certain debt collection practices including harassment or abuse, false or misleading representations, unfair practices, validation of debts, multiple debts, legal actions, and furnishing deceptive forms. At Cogburn Law, we know that you want a reputable FDCPA lawyer to make sure these rights are respected by debt collectors. If necessary, we can help you bring a civil suit to affirm these protections and seek damages when appropriate. Speak to a debt collection attorney today.
Beyond our reputation for consumer legal expertise and integrity, we’re also on top of new legal developments as it applies to our clients. The FDCPA may very well see substantive changes as it comes under the purview of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. As such, we’ll be ready to aggressively pursue any new or modified protections, including changes to enforcement policies, as this new agency puts them into effect.
Fair Debt Collection Practice Advocates in Your Corner
At Cogburn Law Offices in Las Vegas, we serve as dedicated advocates for clients, holding creditors to the terms of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FDCPA imposes restrictions on the way debt collectors can communicate while collecting a debt, including the following:
- Time and place: Generally, debt collectors may not contact you at a time or place that is unusual or known to be inconvenient to you. They are prohibited from contacting you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., or at work if they know you are not allowed to receive such communications while working.
- Harassment: Debt collectors are not allowed to harass you through phone calls or any other form of communication. Threats of harm, obscene or profane language, and repeated phone calls to annoy you are prohibited. Debt collectors are not allowed to publish lists of consumers who have not paid their debts or call your friends, family members, neighbors, or coworkers, except to obtain an updated address or phone number.
- False statements and misrepresentation: Debt collectors are prohibited by law from lying or falsely identifying themselves to collect a debt. They are not allowed to pretend to be attorneys, representatives of credit reporting agencies, or government representatives. Neither can they threaten you with actions they are not legally allowed to take.
- Attorney representation: If a debt collector is aware that an attorney is representing you concerning your debt, the debt collector must cease contacting you and contact your attorney instead. If you have an attorney and a debt collector contacts you, provide the name of your attorney, after which all direct contact should stop.
- Written directive to cease contact: If you tell a debt collector in writing to stop contacting you, the debt collector is prohibited from further contact except to tell you that there will be no further contact or to notify you of a specific legal action being taken.
Your Right to Information about the Debt
A debt collector who contacts you about a debt is required by law to provide certain information about the debt. That information includes:
- The name of the creditor
- The amount owed
- The fact that you can dispute the debt
- Your right to request the name of the original creditor if different than the current creditor
If the above information is not provided during the initial contact, it must be sent to you in writing within five days. You may dispute all or part of a debt and request more information if you are unsure if you owe the debt or how much you owe.
Collection Stops Until Requested Information Is Provided
If you dispute a debt or part of a debt in writing within 30 days of receiving the information the debt collector is required to provide to you, no further contact to collect the disputed portion of the debt is allowed until you receive verification of the debt in writing.
If you request the name and address of the original creditor in writing within 30 days, all debt collection activities must stop until you are given that information. If the name of the original creditor is not familiar to you, ask if the debt may have been purchased from another company, and if so, what is the name and address of the creditor from whom it was purchased.
Contact A Debt Collection Attorney For Help
Reach out to our debt collection attorneys at Cogburn Law for a free case consultation if you have been a victim of illegal debt collection practices. You can call us at (702) 748-7777. Do you want additional information? Enter your email below and we will send you a guide, free of charge.
Fair Debt Collection Frequently Asked Questions
What Types Of Debts Are Covered Under The FDCPA?
Your credit card debt, auto loans, medical bills, student loans, mortgage, and other household debts are covered. Business debts are not.
Can Debt Collectors Contact Me Any Time Or Any Place?
A debt collector can’t contact you at inconvenient times or places. They can contact you from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. only. They are also not allowed to contact you at work if you have told them not to contact you there.
How Are Debt Collectors Able To Contact Me?
Debt collectors can only call you on the phone, or send letters, emails, or text messages to collect a debt. If they contact you by other forms they are in violation of the FDCPA.
How Can I Stop A Debt Collector From Contacting Me?
A collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax. However, a debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree. A debt collector also may not contact you at work if the collector knows that your employer disapproves of such contacts. You can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a “cease and desist” letter to the collector telling them to stop. Note that simply telling a collector to stop calling you is insufficient to invoke your right to stop the collector from contacting you. You may stop a collector from contacting you only by doing so in writing.
Can A Debt Collector Contact Anyone Else About My Debt?
A debt collector may contact your spouse, your attorney, the creditor or the credit reporting agency in connection with your debt. If the bill collector contacts anyone else, then he has violated the FDCPA. Indeed, you put the collector on notice that you are represented by an attorney, then the collector must contact the attorney, rather than you.
What Does The Debt Collector Have To Tell Me About The Debt?
Within five days after you are first contacted by the debt collector, he must send you a Validation Notice. This letter is supposed to tell you:
- the amount of the debt;
- the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed;
- a statement that unless you, within thirty days after receipt of the notice, dispute the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector;
- a statement that if you notify the debt collector in writing within the thirty-day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of a judgment against you and a copy of such verification or judgment will be mailed to you by the debt collector; and
- a statement that, upon your written request within the thirty-day period, the debt collector will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.
What If I Don’t Think I Owe The Debt?
If you’ve been contacted by debt collectors but don’t think you don’t have any debt you can send them a letter. In the letter, say that you don’t owe any or all of the money, or ask for verification of the debt.
If you send the letter within 30 days of getting the validation notice, the collector has to send you written verification of the debt, like a copy of a bill for the amount you owe, before it can start trying to collect the debt again. You also can get a collector to stop contacting you, at any time, by sending a letter by mail asking for contact to stop.
What Are Debt Collectors Not Allowed To Do?
Here are five tactics that debt collectors are specifically forbidden from using:
1. Pretend to Work for a Government Agency
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from pretending to work for any government agency, including law enforcement. They also cannot claim to be working for a consumer reporting agency.
2. Threaten to Have You Arrested
Collection agencies cannot falsely claim that you have committed a crime or say you will be arrested if you don’t repay the money they say you owe.
First of all, the agencies cannot issue arrest warrants or have you put in jail. Furthermore, failing to repay a credit card debt, mortgage, car loan, or medical bill in a timely manner doesn’t land you in prison.
3. Publicly Shame You
Debt collectors are not permitted to try to publicly shame you into paying money that you may or may not owe.
In fact, they’re not even allowed to contact you by postcard. They cannot publish the names of people who owe money. They can’t even discuss the matter with anyone other than you, your spouse, or your attorney.
4. Try to Collect Debt You Don’t Owe
Some debt collectors will knowingly or unknowingly rely on incorrect information to try to get money out of you.
The creditor you originally owed money may have sold your debt to a collection agency, which in turn may have sold it to another collection agency. A mistake somewhere along the way could mean that the collector contacting you has incorrect information.
5. Harass You
They are not permitted to:
- Threaten you with violence or harm
- Use obscene or profane language
- Call you repeatedly
- Call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. without your permission
- Call you at work, if you forbid it in writing
- Contact you at all if you tell the collector, in writing, to stop contacting you altogether or to contact only your attorney.
Can I Control Which Debts My Payments Apply To?
Yes. If a debt collector is trying to collect more than one debt from you, the debt collector must apply any payment you make to the debt you select. But, what is equally important, a debt collector may not apply a payment to a debt you don’t think you owe or to a debt that you dispute.
What Should I Do If A Debt Collector Sues Me?
If a debt collector files a lawsuit against you to collect a debt, the most important thing you can do is respond to the lawsuit. Contact us for a free consultation and we’ll guide you through it.
Can A Debt Collector Take Money From My Paycheck?
A debt collector can, in fact, garnish your wages, but only if it’s legal to do so in your state. For this to happen, a lawsuit must be filed against you. A possible outcome from such a lawsuit is a judgment against you to garnish property or wages.
Can My Federal Benefits Be Garnished?
If you receive federal benefits and have an unpaid debt, a creditor or the debt collector it hires may get a court order to try to take money from your bank account to pay the debt.
Many federal benefits are generally exempt from garnishment, though they might still be garnished to pay delinquent taxes, alimony, child support, or student loans. States have their own laws about which state benefits can be garnished.
What If My Debt Is Old?
Once the statute of limitations on your credit card debt has expired, the debt is considered “time-barred.” This means that a debt collector can no longer sue you over your unpaid debt. That said, some debt collectors still try to sue consumers even after the statute of limitations has expired.
Can A Debt Collector Contact Me About A Time-barred Debt?
Yes. Even if a debt collector can’t successfully sue you over a time-barred debt, you may still owe it.
If you are being sued over a debt that is outside of the statute of limitations, you’ll need to appear in court and prove that the debt is too old to collect.
What If I’m Not Sure Whether My Debt Is Time-barred?
Ask the collector when its records show you made your last payment. You also can send the collector a letter within 30 days of receiving written notice of the debt. Explain why you’re disputing the debt and that you want to verify it. A collector must stop trying to collect until it gives you verification.
Does A Time-barred Debt Stay On My Credit Report?
In many cases, yes. The length of time that negative information can be reported on your credit is governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Most negative information can be reported for seven years.
The statute of limitations for most consumer debts, on the other hand, is four to six years. If the statute of limitations expires on a debt in four years, the related collection account can still appear on your credit reports for another three years after that. And, yes, collection accounts can do significant damage to your credit scores.
Do I Have To Pay A Debt That’s Considered Time-barred?
The decision to pay a time-barred debt is up to you. You have options, but each one has consequences. Consider talking to a lawyer before you choose an option.
- Pay nothing on the debt. Although the collector may not sue you to collect the debt, you still owe it. The collector can continue to contact you to try to collect, unless you send a letter to the collector demanding that communication stop. Not paying a debt may make it harder, or more expensive, to get credit, insurance, or other services because not paying may lower your credit rating.
- Make a partial payment on the debt. In some states, if you pay any amount on a time-barred debt or even promise to pay, the debt is ‘revived.’ This means the clock resets and a new statute of limitations period begins. It also often means the collector can sue you to collect the full amount of the debt, which may include additional interest and fees.
- Pay off the debt. Even though the collector may not be able to sue you, you may decide to pay off the debt. Some collectors may be willing to accept less than the amount you owe to settle the debt, either in one large payment or a series of small ones. Make sure you get a signed form or letter from the collector before you make any payment. This document should state that the entire debt is being settled and that the amount to be paid will release you from any further obligation. Without this document, the amount paid may be treated as a partial payment on the debt, instead of a complete payment. Keep a record of the payments you make to pay off the debt.
What Should I Do If I’m Sued For A Time-barred Debt?
Defend Yourself In Court
If you’re sued to collect on a time-barred debt, pay attention, and respond. Consider talking to an attorney. You or your attorney should tell the judge that the debt is time-barred and, as proof, provide a copy of the verification from the collector or any information you have that shows the date of your last payment. The lawsuit will be dismissed if the judge decides the debt is time-barred. In any case, don’t ignore the lawsuit. If you do, the collector likely will get a court judgment against you, and possibly take money from your paycheck, bank account, or tax refund.
Assert Your FDCPA Rights
It’s against the law for a collector to sue you or threaten to sue you on a time-barred debt. If you think a collector has broken the law, file a complaint with the FTC and your state Attorney General, and consider talking to an attorney about bringing your own private action against the collector for violating the FDCPA.
Where Do I Report A Debt Collector For An Alleged Violation?
Report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General’s office and the Federal Trade Commission. Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights under your state’s law.
What Else Can I Do If I Think A Debt Collector Has Broken The Law?
You can sue a collector within one year of the date the law was violated in a state or federal court. You can sue for damages, like lost wages and medical bills. But, if you can’t prove damages, you can still be awarded up to $1,000, plus reimbursement for attorney’s fees and court costs.
A group of people suing as part of a class action lawsuit can get compensation for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower.
Bear in mind, that even if a court finds a debt collector violated the FDCPA in trying to collect a debt, you still owe the debt.