These days, it seems like our phones are constantly ringing—and it’s not our family and friends calling to check in on us. Many times it’s a spam call that you can’t block quickly enough. Add debt collectors into the mix, and you may start to prefer someone calling about your car’s extended warranty! According to debt.org, the average American has about $90,000 in debt. This may seem like an absurd amount, but considering that this total for many people includes a mix of student loans, car loans, credit cards, mortgages, and other consumer debt products – it becomes easy to see how the average debt comes to a nearly six figure total.
When a debt goes unpaid for a prolonged period of time, it typically is sent to a debt collection agency. These agencies are notorious for their persistent pursuit of consumers regarding their debts. However, staying informed on how to best proceed when contacted by a debt collector is essential to avoid the mess that comes with debt collector harassment.
Know and Understand Your Rights
Consumers should be aware of their rights when they are contacted by debt collectors. Being continually pursued by debt collectors may take an emotional toll on consumers, coupled with the stress of dealing with the actual debt. Many people don’t know that there is a body of law that protects them from harassment – The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA protects consumers from, among other things, the abusive practices of third-party debt collectors which allows a consumer to obtain compensation for damages including emotional distress and physical distress caused by the harassment as well as attorneys’ fees for obtaining an attorney to represent you regarding the potential FDCPA violation.
Keep a Record of All Communication
The two primary forms of communication that debt collectors will use are telephone and postal mail. Consumers should keep all correspondence in the event that they must make a complaint or file a lawsuit. As for phone calls, consumers should jot down the debt collector’s name, the time and length of any conversation that does take place with the debt collector, a reliable call back number, and the company that they work for.
Ask for Debt Verification
Once a debt collector has contacted a consumer, they have five days to provide the consumer with “validation information” regarding the debt. This is a written notice including the total amount of debt, the creditor’s name for which the debt is owed, and the original creditor’s name.
Debt validation is important as some collection agencies may not legally own the debt. They may just be collecting on behalf of the original creditor. Therefore the validation is given to the consumer so they can decide how to proceed.
Write a Cease and Desist Letter
Consumers have the option of ceasing communication with debt collectors by writing a letter telling them to stop. Both Pennsylvania and federal law require collection agencies to abide by the consumer’s request. Otherwise, the consumer can take appropriate action, including report them to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Types of Impermissible Actions Under the FDCPA
Other than harassing a consumer, there are numerous other improper steps that a debt collector may take that violates the law. For example, a debt collector may: make false representations regarding the debt that you allegedly owe; claim that you owe more than you actually do; claim that there is a current legal action pending against you even though there is none; and contact your family members to collect the debt. Read more on how the FDCPA works against debt collection harassment here.
If you believe you are the victim of a debt collector’s abusive practices and need a civil litigation attorney, contact The Kim Law Firm, LLC here or call (855) 996-6342, and one of our experienced attorneys will help you weigh your legal options.