Fair Debt Collection is such an important topic the we have added a special dedicated section that focuses on fair debt collection practices exclusively.
In today’s rough financial times it is very common for people to fall behind on their bills, and find themselves in debt collection from Collection Agencies. It is important to educate yourself and know your rights for Fair Debt Collection.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, aka “FDCPA”, was passed by Congress in 1978 to respond to abusive conduct by collection agencies and debt collectors.
The types of debts that are covered?
It covers personal, household, and family debts, including money you owe on a personal credit card account, an auto loan, a medical or hospital bill, and a home mortgage. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does not cover debts you incurred to run a business.
Is it fair for a Debt Collector to contact me any time or any place?
No. A debt collector or Collection Agency may not contact you at inconvenient times or places, for example: Before 8 in the morning or after 9 at night, unless you agree to it. And collectors may not contact you at work if you inform them that you are not allowed to receive phone calls at your place of employment.
What is considered to to unfair and unethical practices of a Debt Collector?
Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, they may not:
* Use threats of violence or harm of any kind;
* Publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts beside reporting it to credit reporting agency
* Use obscene or profane language
* Repeatedly annoy consumer on the phone.
Use of any false statements. Debt collectors may not lie when they are trying to collect a debt. Examples of unfair behavior.
* Falsely claim that they are attorneys or government employee
* Falsely claim that you have committed some sort of crime
* Falsely imply that they work for a credit reporting company
* Misrepresent the amount of debt
* Indicate that papers they send you are legal forms if they’re not.
* Indicate that papers they send to you aren’t legal forms if they are.
Debt collectors also are prohibited from saying that:
* You will be arrested if you don’t pay the debt
* They will seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so, or
* Legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action.
In addition, Debt collectors may not
* Give any false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company
* Mail you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t, or
* Use any false company name.
Engage in unfair practices attempting to collect a debt.
* Trying to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt – or your state law allows such a charge
* Deposit a post-dated check earlier than dated
* Seize or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally
* Attempt to contact you via postcard
These are the federal guidelines, be vigilant, and make sure to check your state and local laws regarding debt collections. Check back often as we update consumers on all facets of the Fair Debt Collection Act.
If you feel your rights have been harassed, you can file a complaint with the federal trade commission. This is the Agency that protects America’s consumers from being unlawfully violated. You can recover damages from Debt Collector that violate your rights. It must be one year from the date of the violation and you may file a lawsuit against the Debt Collector. You could receive up to $1,000 in addition to actual damages and attorney fees.
The debt collection statute of limitations varies greatly state to state. It can range anywhere between 3-15 years. You need to check your state laws to be absolutely sure. Do not confuse the credit report time limit, which is 7 years for a debt.
Although, bankruptcies are reported for 10 years and tax liens can be reported for up to 15 years.
Sometimes when the statute of limitations has expired, some debt collectors will still try like weasels and attempt to collect the debt. They are hoping you are ignorant of statute of limitations law and you’ll pay them anyway.
Anytime you take action on an account you automatically restart the statute of limitations. What constitutes action on an account? If you make any kind of payment, or enter into a payment agreement restarts the statute of limitations on an account no matter how old that account is. For example, if the debt collector talks you into making a payment after 6 years of inactivity it resets to zero.
Can a debt collector garnish my bank account or my wages?
If you are in default on a debt, the creditor or its debt collector generally can sue you to collect damages. You must be served to appear in court. Now, if they win the case the court will enter a judgment against you. The judgment states the amount of money you owe, and allows the creditor or collector to get a garnishment order against you, directing a third party, like your bank, to turn over funds from your account to pay the debt.
Wage garnishment is when your employer withholds part of your compensation, to pay your debts. Your wages usually can be garnished only as the result of a court order. Don’t ignore a lawsuit summons. Make sure you appear and be represented by an attorney if you can. You can contest the a wage garnishment in a court of law.
Can Federal Benefits be garnished?
These Federal Benefits are exempt from garnishment, including:
* Social Security Benefits
* Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Benefits
* Veterans’ Benefits
* Civil Service and Federal Retirement and Disability Benefits
* Service Members’ Pay
* Military Annuities and Survivors’ Benefits
* Student Assistance
* Railroad Retirement Benefits
* Merchant Seamen Wages
* Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Death and Disability Benefits
* Foreign Service Retirement and Disability Benefits
* Compensation for Injury, Death, or Detention of Employees of U.S. Contractors Outside the U.S.
* Federal Emergency Management Agency Federal Disaster Assistance
Keep in mind that federal benefits may be garnished under certain circumstances, paying delinquent taxes, Alimony, Child Support, or Student Loans.