Misleading Debt Collectors? Let Collection Agency Laws Work for You
It often seems like debt collectors are in the business of deception, yet according to collection agency laws like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a debt collector cannot mislead you. Misleading debt collectors contact consumers on a daily basis, often in order to frighten them into paying. Here are some of the ways debt collectors violate collection agency laws through misleading consumers:
Who they are: A debt collector may not misrepresent himself to you or to people you know. Not only does he have to reveal his true name and the true name of the debt collection agency, but he cannot pretend to be affiliated with a consumer reporting agency, the government, or with a law enforcement agency. So, for example, he cannot wear a uniform that makes you think he’s a police officer, and cannot flash a badge to make you think he’s from the IRS. In addition, he can’t pretend or imply that he’s an attorney if that’s not the case. In short, if misleading debt collectors entice you to pick up the phone or pay a debt, it’s a violation of collection agency laws.
What they say: Misleading debt collectors might offer any one of a number of lies in order to get you to part with your money. According to collection agency laws, it’s illegal for a debt collector to lie about the type, amount, or legal status of the debt. He also can’t say that you’ve committed a crime, or threaten to have you arrested, to seize your property, to garnish your wages, or to report false information to a credit reporting agency. Every time a debt collection agency contacts you, they must tell you that they are trying to collect a debt, and that any information you provide will be used for that purpose.
What they send you: The provisions of collection agency laws that pertain to misleading debt collectors also apply to the documents a debt collector sends to you or gives to you. Often, a debt collector will send official-looking documents that look as though they come from a court or governmental agency. Other times, debt collection agencies send notices that imply that you’re being taken to court when that’s not the case. These practices are forbidden under collection agency laws like the FDCPA. At the same time, it’s against the law for misleading debt collectors to actually take legal action but lead you to believe that you do not have to respond. It’s very common for debt collection agencies to tell you that no action is necessary, when in fact they’re trying to run out the clock. This is because, if you fail to respond within a certain timeframe, a court will rule that you are not contesting the debt, and will approve a judgment against you.
What they try to collect: A debt collector is allowed to try and obtain payment for a legitimate debt, but all too often he tries to collect more than what is owed. So, for example, a debt collection agency might try to tack on interest, fees, or collection charges to the amount owed. This is illegal under collection agency laws, unless your state has a law that allows those charges. It is also a violation of the FDCPA for misleading debt collectors to make you pay for collect calls, telegrams, and so forth.
How to Fight Back Against Deception
If you’ve been deceived by misleading debt collectors, it’s important to fight back. First, keep a record of every conversation you have with the debt collector, along with anything you receive in writing (including the envelopes). This kind of documentation can help you establish that the debt collector misled you and violated collection agency laws.
Second, contact a fair debt attorney. If the debt collection agency has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you may be entitled to actual damages, attorney fees, and up to $1,000. The legal team at Debt & Credit Lawyer will provide you with a free case evaluation, and will represent you free of charge if you’ve been the victim of embarrassing debt collection practices. Call 203-529-5100 to get help.
Finally, file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB is responsible for tracking FDCPA complaints about debt collector harassment. The Federal Trade Commission uses consumer complaints to detect patterns of abuse. Complaints like yours are the driving factor in lawsuits filed by the FTC against unethical debt collectors.