Are you being harassed by a debt collection agency? Do you feel hounded when the phone rings? You may not realize it, but you may be the victim of an aggressive debt collector. Many debt collectors use methods fraught with “deceptive, unfair, and abusive debt collection practices,” according to the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
Why is this happening to me?
Since most consumer debt is now owned by debt buyers, collectors find themselves free to do whatever they want. If Sears was collecting on the money you owed, it wouldn’t want to alienate you as a customer. Unfortunately, debt buyers and banks who specialize in junk debts don’t care about that or about you. They will harass you, call you at work, call you at all times of the day or night, and even call you when you don’t owe them money. These practices are common. Though laws protect the consumer, unscrupulous collection agencies bank on quickly collecting from the average person by harassing them.
The simple fact is: most people do not know their rights.
An example of this is the November 2014 arrest of the owner and employees at Williams, Scott & Associates, which was doing business under the name Warrant Services Association (WSA). Here are the FBI’s remarks concerning their practices, but suffice to say they epitomize the widespread collection practices that unconscionably break the law. According to the FBI’s remarks, “This was nothing but a scam of total fabrication in order to coerce thousands into paying debts — some real and many others made up.” The callers from WSA often lied about being connected to the Department of Justice and a federal agency with powers to put out a warrant for the victim’s arrest or to take away the victim’s driver’s license.
What does the law say?
The Federal government enacted the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act to protect consumers from debt collectors who go too far, that is, from predatory, malicious and unscrupulous creditors. Each state also has its own debt collection law that may provide broader protections. In California, for instance, individuals have even more protection, including from the original lenders, under the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
So next time you receive a debt collection call, here is what you should know:
- The debt collector can only call you between 8:00 A.M. and 9:00 P.M. They cannot call you continuously throughout the day and night, and you can forbid them to call you at work.
- You can have the collection agency stop calling you and send you communications by mail instead.
- When you respond to a debt collector, he or she must be professional. They cannot use profane, abusive language towards you.
- A collection agency must state who they are, who the creditor is, how much you owe, and the process to follow if you dispute the debt.
- If you request to validate the debt with the creditor, the collection agency must stop contacting you until they receive further word from the creditor.
- A collection agency cannot make threats against you. They cannot threaten to harm you in any way, take anything away from you, give your private information to another party, do anything else unlawful, or make threats which they do not intend to pursue.
This is a general summary of the law. You can contact us (below) for more specifics.
What do I do now?
If you think you are being harassed by a creditor or debt collection agency, the first thing to do is to keep good records. Write down the specific day and time every time they call you. Try to get the name of the person calling you.
And then, call us at (408) 599-3277 for a free consultation or send us a message. We will help you to assess your situation and see if your legal rights are being violated so that the harassment can stop.