Debt collectors who utilize deceptive practices in collections letters violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and can be held liable for their actions. The FDCPA protects consumers from abusive trade practices that are blatant attempts to coerce payment for debts and fees that creditors claim are owed to them.
Actions That are Prohibited
Debt collectors are prohibited from making false statements in their collection letters. They are not allowed to misrepresent themselves as attorneys or government representatives, and they are not allowed to misrepresent their relationship with credit reporting agencies. They are also not allowed to threaten criminal action including imprisonment if a debtor doesn’t pay.
The FDCPA also prohibits them from threatening to garnish wages, seize property or levy bank accounts unless the law allows for such actions. Furthermore, debt collectors are not allowed to misrepresent the amount that is owed or use false letterheads that make a letter appear that it is sent from the courts or a government entity. Debt collectors are prohibited from misidentifying the entity they work for by utilizing fictitious company names.
Recourse for Deceptive Practices
When debt collection agencies violate the FDCPA, it does not erase the debts and fees that a consumer legally owes and consumers are still responsible for paying these debts. However, individuals who are the victims of deceptive practices by debt collectors may file complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, or the state’s attorney general’s office.
Individuals who wish to bring a lawsuit against a debt collector that has engaged in deceptive practices may file a civil suit in either state or federal court within one year from the date the incident occurred. Under the terms of the FDCPA, creditors who engage in deceptive practices can be held liable for damages including court costs and attorney’s fees. An FDCPA lawyer often advises consumers who suspect that a debt collector is utilizing deceptive practices to collect a debt to help them avoid making payments or agreeing to terms that may cause them to relinquish their rights under the FDCPA.