Debt collectors may use questionable tactics to get payments from consumers. In some cases, these tactics reach the level of harassment. However, state and federal laws exist to help protect consumers.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors cannot use unfair, abusive, or deceptive practices against consumers. The FDCPA typically does not target the original creditors, but rather applies to the collection agencies and businesses that acquire debts to settle. For example, the act covers the collection of mortgages, medical debts, credit card balances, and other such personal debts. The FDCPA does not, however, apply to the collection of business debts.
Federal law prohibits debt collectors from harassing consumers. To this end, agents cannot make threats, call repeatedly, or use profane language. While any phone call from a debt collector may seem like a headache, phone calls generally only constitute harassment when made repeatedly for the purpose of annoying consumers.
When trying to collect a debt, agents cannot use unfair practices. Under federal law protections, this may include actions such as attempting to collect charges on top of the debts not included in the contract or allowed by state law, sending debt communications on postcards, or depositing post-dated checks early.
Debt collectors cannot lie or otherwise use deception when communicating with consumers about their debts. Among other practices, deceit by debt collectors may include pretending they work for a government agency or are an attorney when telling consumers who they are and from where they are calling. Further, debt collection agents cannot tell people they owe amounts other than what they actually owe, and they cannot say they will have them arrested or will take legal action unless they can and will do so.
If debt collectors cross the line, consumers have options available to address the issue. Consumers may contact their state attorney general’s offices to report the violation, as well as submit a formal complaint with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. Consumers who have their rights violated by debt collection agents may also choose to take legal action; however, redressing such violations does not free consumers of the debts they owe.
When consumers have their rights violated by debt collectors, they may consider pursuing options to see the wrongs against them made right.