Debt collectors what can they legally do to collect debt?

Although debtors are protected against certain abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices for debt collection through the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), creditors are allowed to make aggressive attempts to collect debt payments. Recently on our bankruptcy forum a user asked, “What actions can debt collectors take to legally collect debt payments for debts?”

Debt collection and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

First, when discussing the protections debtors have against debt collectors it is important to understand this applies directly to debt collectors- debt collection agencies or lawyers- not necessarily to first party creditors who are attempting to collect their own debts.

On July 10, 2013, however, the CFPB issued a guidance bulletin stating it intends to begin applying the FDCPA provisions to “businesses collecting their own debts. Despite the fact that the FDCPA expressly excludes parties collecting their own debts, the CFPB stated that, by virtue of the 2010 amendment to FDCPA §1692l, it had the power to define unfair or deceptive practices.” So in practice, the law may allow some protections from a wide array of debt collectors.

Protections against debt collectors under the FDCPA

Under the FDCPA debt collectors cannot contact you at any time or any place. For instance, debt collection agencies should not call you before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night, unless you agree to it. They also must stop contacting you if you send them a letter requesting that they not contact you again (exceptions exist if they are notifying you there will be no further contact or they are filing a lawsuit against you). Collectors must send you written notice about the amount of money you owe, the name of the creditor, and how you can challenge the debt collection.

FDCPA also protects debtors from the following:

  • Threats of violence or harm.
  • The use of obscene or profane language.
  • Repeated and annoying phone calls.
  • Publishing the list of people who owe debts.
  • Misrepresenting the amount of money owed.
  • Claiming that they are an attorney.
  • Claiming you will be arrested if you fail to pay the debt.
  • Threatening to garnish wages or seize assets, unless they actually have the legal authority and intention of taking such action.
  • Sending documents which look legal which are not.
  • Giving false information to anyone about you or the debt.

Will debt collectors sue me?

State laws vary, but some debt collectors are legally allowed to sue you to collect the debts you owe. Certain states also allow debt collectors to garnish wages to repay certain types of debts. If you have received a summons do not ignore it. Although some states do not allow wage garnishments for certain types of unsecured debts; some states do.

What do you do if your rights have been violated? If you believe your rights have been violated you may be allowed to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated.

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Beth L. has been a contributing writer to websites since 2008. She has a background in Business Management and Management Information Systems and graduated from the University of Texas in 1996. Now she specializes in content development for legal entities for issues regarding bankruptcy, personal injury and Social Security Disability law.