0

Protect Yourself Against Unscrupulous Debt Collectors

Federal Trade Commission reports rise in complaints

Are you being harassed for unpaid bills? You may have gotten behind in your payments, or the bills may not even be yours! Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), you have the right to protect yourself against debt collectors who use abusive, unfair or deceptive practices. Reports of illegal debt collection actions are growing. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission’s 2011 report noted an amazing 76 percent increase in complaints of debt collectors using false threats of arrest or property seizure, and a 66 percent increase in complaints of their use or threat of violence.

The first step in protecting yourself against unscrupulous debt collectors is to know your rights under federal law.

You may want to talk with the debt collector once to be sure the debt involved is yours or to discuss a way to resolve it, but you can refuse contact. If you inform the collector you are represented by a bankruptcy attorney or other counsel, the collector must contact your lawyer rather than you. Whether you have a lawyer or not, you may state in writing that you do not want to be contacted again. Send the letter by certified mail so you can prove the collection agency received the notice. Other than notifying you of an action such as a lawsuit, the collection agency is prohibited from contacting you again. Insist the collection agency send you a description of the debt, and your rights, in writing.

It is illegal for a debt collector make harassing phone calls, including calling repeatedly or continuously, to call you before 8 am or after 9 pm, or to call you at work, if you have told them you are not allowed to take calls there. The debt collector may talk to you, your spouse and your attorney about your debt. Other forms of illegal harassment include threats, swearing, obscenities, repeated calls and publishing your name (except to a credit reporting agency). A debt collector may not misrepresent the amount or status of your debt, or the collector’s identity or employer, including any implication the collector is a government agent. The collector may not talk to neighbors, relatives or others about your debt, but may ask them (once) for your address, home phone and place of employment. The debt collector must honor your wish not to be contacted at inconvenient times and a statement that you are not allowed to take calls at work. You must be given written notice of a lawsuit.

You do not have to deal with the debt collector, but it will then be wise to hire an attorney. Provide your lawyer’s contact information and you should not be contacted again. Complaints of illegal debt collection tactics should be filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

If you would like to obtain additional information about Texas bankruptcy, explore your options, learn about the bankruptcy process or discuss your particular situation with an experienced Texas Bankruptcy Attorney, please contact Bailey & Galyen today.