Our Debt Collection Violation Frequently Asked Questions
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What are the warning signs of illegal debt collection harassment?
When you get behind in paying your debts, the credit card company, doctor, bank, or other creditor you owe could hire a collection agency to attempt to collect your debt.
While many collection agencies are professional when collecting a debt, others are not even legitimate debt collectors. Some engage in illegal and abusive debt collection practices. Just because you owe a debt does not mean that you have to take this harassment. You may have rights that you can enforce under the Massachusetts Consumer Debt Collection Act, and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to stop these practices, and you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries under these laws.
What Are the Warning Signs of Debt Collection Harassment?
You need to know the warning signs of debt collection harassment so that you can identify “debt collectors” who prey on people like you and attempt to take their money. In addition, you should be on watch for debt collectors who threaten action they cannot legally take in an effort to frighten you into paying a debt. You may not even owe the debt that the debt collector is attempting to get you to pay.
Here are signs of illegal debt collection practices that you have a right to stop:
- Harassment. It is considered illegal harassment for a debt collector to use profane language or threats of violence, or to publish your name in a list of debtors. In addition, repeatedly calling you about a debt—sometimes multiple times in a day—or before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM is prohibited.
- Making false statements. Some debt collectors will lie in an attempt to get you to pay a debt. They may falsely claim to be an attorney or governmental official or make false statements regarding what could happen to you if you do not pay them. A common untrue statement is threatening to have you arrested for not paying the debt.
- Issuing improper threats of legal action. It is improper for a debt collector to threaten legal actions, such as the filing of a lawsuit, which he does not intend to take. It is also a violation of the law to threaten to garnish wages, seize property, or confiscate an income tax refund when the debt collection agency has no judgment against you.
- Using deceptive documents. Some debt collection agencies could send you fake documents that appear to be coming from a company, court, or governmental agency to convince you that you owe a debt or that a judgment has been entered against you. Using fraudulent documents in this way is illegal.
- Collection of what is not owed. In some cases, a debt collection agency will attempt to collect a debt they cannot prove you owe. You may not in fact owe the debt. It is also illegal to charge interest and other fees that cannot be charged under your contract with the creditor that you owe the debt to.
- Badgering friends and family. It is abusive for a debt collectors to contact family members, neighbors, and friends to discuss your debt with them.
- Communications after attorney representation. Once a collection agency has been notified that you are represented by an attorney, the debt collector should not contact you personally. All communications should be made through your attorney, and it is a violation of the law to continue to call you or send you emails or letters.
If you are the victim of abusive debt collection practices, you have a right to stop these illegal practices and assert your right to compensation for these violations of your important consumer rights.
Brine Consumer Law is committed to helping you stop debt collectors from harassing you and pursuing your claims for compensation. Many of these cases can be taken at no cost to you because the debt collector will be responsible for paying your attorney fees under debt collection practices laws. To learn more about your rights to stop abusive collection actions, call our office to schedule your free consultation.
Can a debt collector call my family?
Both federal and state laws prohibit debt collectors from certain types of communications with third parties. For our purposes, a third party is anyone who isn’t either you or the debt collector—including friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors.
Under federal law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) states that, unless you agree otherwise, a debt collector may only communicate with: you, your attorney, credit reporting agencies, the original creditor, the attorney for the original creditor, and the attorney for the debt collector. Communications with all other third parties are prohibited, with one exception. Debt collectors may contact other third parties “for the purpose of acquiring location information” about you.
There are several limitations imposed on such communications:
- The debt collector must state that they are calling to confirm or correct location information about you. They cannot identify themselves as a debt collector, and cannot state the name of their employer unless specifically requested by the third party.
- The debt collector cannot state that they are calling about a debt, and cannot state that you owe a debt.
- The debt collector cannot contact the same third party more than once, unless the third party requests further communications, or the debt collector reasonably believes that the third party gave them inaccurate location information and that they now have accurate information.
- If communication with third parties is by mail, the debt collector cannot: use any language or symbol (on the envelope or its contents) that suggests the message is from a debt collector or has any connection with the collection of debt, or communicate by postcard.
Hiring an Attorney Gives You Even More Protection
Additionally, once a debt collector knows that you are represented by an attorney, then the debt collector cannot communicate with any person other than your attorney. Violations of any of these rules constitute a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and entitle you to actual damages, statutory damages of up to $1,000, and attorney’s fees.
In Massachusetts, the Attorney General and the Division of Banks have each issued debt collection regulations that primarily correspond with the FDCPA. Violations of any of these regulations also constitute a violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act.
Most cases for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act can be handled for no out-of-pocket cost to you, as the laws require the debt collectors to pay your attorney’s fee. Therefore, if a debt collector has improperly contacted third parties in an effort to collect from you, then please contact Brine Consumer Law today for a free consultation.