Did you know that as well as having a code of practice, there are things debt collectors can’t do – legally. When you are behind on your monthly payments, nothing is more frustrating than the endless calls from debt collectors harassing you for payment. Even when the reasons for late payment are beyond your control, the phone calls never seem to stop. The embarrassment can feel crushing, especially when you would pay them if you could. While you’re getting back on your feet, it is important to understand that the behavior of the bill collectors does have limits. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was passed into law to stop debt collectors from going too far, and to establish a list of things debt collectors can’t do.
1. Repeated Calling
One of the things debt collectors can’t do is to call you over and over endlessly. Of course they are permitted to call you, but calling again and again until you pick up is not allowed. This is considered harassment.
Collection agents or agencies are also required to respect normal working hours. This means that debt collection calls must be made during hours that the average person is awake. If a collection agent is calling at odd hours, late at night or on holidays, you can get this to stop because this is classed as illegal conduct by debt collectors.
Threats are also not allowed. Threats from debt collectors are illegal. They cannot pressure you for payment by planning to tell others about your debt or by making a threat of more legal action. Keep in mind that if they are really planning a legal action, telling you about it is not a threat – it is only a warning. This can be a difficult distinction to make at times.
You have the right to expect polite conversation from a debt collector. You won’t be making friends with them, but you do not have to allow them to shout at you, call you names, or use foul language. If any of these things happen, write it down and send a letter to the debt collection agency’s top leadership with a complaint. Abusive language is not an allowed debt collection practice.
Your debt information is private. If you’re married, bill collectors can discuss the situation with your spouse. They can discuss it with your attorney. But, calling employers is illegal practice by debt collectors. They can call your place of work to check your contact information or to leave a message, but they cannot discuss any details about your debt with employers, friends, or family members. They also cannot print information about your debt in the newspaper, unless this is part of a legal proceeding in the “Notices” section in some cases. They cannot publish your information in anyway that the public could see the details.
Under the FDPCA, one of the things debt collectors cannot do is to tell lies about their identity. They are required to truthfully identify themselves and to tell you why they are calling. Normally they will identify the company they work for, and the company who owns the debt at the beginning of the conversation with you. It is inappropriate for them to pretend to be someone else just to get you on the phone.
A debt collection agency cannot lie about the proceedings in your case. This means they cannot threaten to sue you unless they really plan to do so. They cannot tell you that another company is buying your loan or debt unless this is really true. You have the right to accurate and truthful information about the status of your debt.
8. Do It Your Way
Finally, if the harassing telephone calls won’t let you have any peace, you can send a letter asking them to stop calling you. This will not let you off the hook with respect to paying the debt; you will still be responsible. This only means the debt collector will find another way to reach you, probably through hiring an attorney and beginning legal proceedings.
It’s good to know that there are things that debt collectors can’t do in pursuit of you if you owe money. It is important not to give in to any practice that may be illegal or outside their code of conduct. Have you encountered any of these illegal practices with a debt collector? What action did you take?