Debt Collection Abuse Relief
Are you the victim of abusive debt collectors?
Increasingly shameless elements of the debt-collection industry are abusing millions of Americans who have fallen behind on their bills. Collectors use various forms of intimidation, including excessive, insulting or threatening calls; talking with relatives, friends, and employers about a consumer’s debt; or refusing to identify themselves or to validate and alleged debt.
Fight back! You do not have to take it. You can make it stop. The collector may end up paying you.
Common complaints that may entitle you to money damages include the following:
- Calls after 9:00 p.m. or before 8:00 a.m., without your consent
- Foul or obscene language
- Misleading or exaggerated collection letters
- Collection efforts, after you have written to them to stop
- Contact at work, if prohibited by your employer
- Collector's contact with other people about your debt
- False accusations of criminal activity or threat of arrest
- Incorrect amount of debt
- Phony added charges
- Threat of a lawsuit
- Threat of wage garnishment (not permitted in Pennsylvania)
Fair Debt Collections Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal statute designed to protect debtors from abusing collections practices.
Debt collectors are required to provide you with a notice of your rights within 5 days of the first communication with you.
You have the absolute right to demand that a debt collector cease communication. You just have to write a letter setting forth your demand. If you notify the collector that you refuse to pay the debt, that notice also serves as a cease communications notice. In either event, the debt collector may no longer communicate with you except to notify you that he is exercising specific rights.
You have the right to demand that the debt collector prove you owe the money. This process is known as "validation" of the debt. Debt collectors must notify you of this right, and if you request validation in writing within 30 days of receiving your notice of rights, the debt collector must either validate the debt to you or cease collection efforts.
FDCPA Prohibited Practices
- Threats: Any threat to use violence or other criminal means to harm you or your property.
- Threatening to have you arrested or jailed
- Threatening to take your SSI or other protected income
- Threatening to take your household furniture
- Threatening to cause physical injury to you or your property
- Threatening to send false information about you to the credit reporting agencies
- The use of obscene or profane language or language meant to abuse or offends you;
- Sharing any financial information about you if you allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a consumer reporting agency.
- Advertising the sale of your debt to coerce payment of the debt.
- Calling you by phone repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.
- Calling you and failing to disclose their identity as debt collectors.
- Calling before 8 AM or after 9 PM.
- Calling you at your place of work, if you have notified them that you employer does not permit such calls.
- Any other false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in an attempt to collect the debt.
- Calling a friend, family or employer, if the collector knows how to contact you directly, or if the collector knows that you are represented by an attorney
- A debt collector can NEVER discuss your debts with third parties.
- False and/or Misleading Statements
- Misrepresenting the character, amount, or legal status of the debt
- Making empty threats to scare you
- Pretending to work for a credit reporting agency
- Pretending to work for a government agency
- Falsely claiming to be an attorney or to work with attorneys
- Sending you fake legal papers to confuse you, or telling you to ignore real legal papers.
- Collecting interest, fees, collection expenses, or other charges that are not authorized by the law or your original payment agreement
- Soliciting postdated checks with the intent to threaten to expose you to criminal charges, or soliciting postdated checks and then threatening to deposit them early.
- Contacting you by postcard, or contacting you in any way that would disclose to a third party that they are debt collectors.
If a debt collector’s actions violate the FDCPA, you may be entitled to the following:
- Actual damages
- Statutory (automatic) damages up to $1000
- Attorney's fees
There are additional Federal and State statutes and regulations that afford consumers additional protections and avenues of relief. Chief among these are the following:
- Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
- Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act (FCEUA)
- Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (CPL)
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