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Consumer Rights in Debt Collection

It’s an unfortunate situation when one doesn’t answer their own phone because they know it’s a debt collector calling.

But if you have found yourself in this predicament, it helps to know your rights as a consumer.

Consumer rights are protected under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), a set of laws that creditors, collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts regularly, and other debt collectors must abide by when attempting to collect a debt.

These laws won’t get the consumer out of owing a legitimate debt - even if the debt collector breaks the rules - but they are meant to protect the consumer from abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices once common in debt collection.

First of all, it’s important to understand that the FDCPA covers consumer debt - personal, family, and household debts - including credit card debt, auto loans, medical bills, and home mortgages. It does not cover debts incurred by running a business.

As a consumer, you have the right not to be harassed by debt collectors at inconvenient times or places. This mean they cannot call you very early in the morning or really late at night - generally calls should be during the day between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., unless you give specific permission for them to call you at a different time. Also, they may not call you at work if you tell them you cannot receive calls there.

Debt collectors must treat your debt with privacy. They cannot send a postcard about your debt, and they are only allowed to discuss your debt with you, your spouse, or your attorney if you have appointed one. If an attorney is representing you about the debt, the debt collector is to stop calling you and is supposed to deal directly with your lawyer.

They are allowed to speak to third parties such as a neighbor, friend, or place of employment to find out how to contact or locate you, but they cannot discuss your debt with them. And they are generally only permitted to contact a third party once - they cannot harass people to find you.

Debt collectors are also prohibited from harassing you. Though many probably consider it to be harassment to get a call at all when they can’t afford to pay the debt, the FDCPA specifically outlines what is considered harassment by debt collectors.

Debt collectors cannot: threaten you with violence, publish a list of names of people who don’t pay their debts (this doesn’t apply to giving your name to credit reporting agencies), use profanity or obscene language, or use the phone to repeatedly annoy someone.

Debt collectors are forbidden from lying when trying to collect a debt. If you have ever received a call from a creditor after a missed payment, it’s likely they told you who they were and said, “This call is an attempt to collect a debt.” That’s what they’re supposed to do.

They aren’t allowed to falsely claim to be law enforcement, attorneys or representatives of the government, a credit reporting agency or anything else in an effort to scare the consumer.

Debt collectors have to be truthful in the amount you owe. They can’t add interest, fees, or other charges on top of your debt unless the contract of the original debt (or state law) allows it, and they can’t deposit a post-dated check prematurely.

They also cannot misrepresent the types of papers they’ve sent you. For example, they can’t indicate that papers they send you are legal forms if they aren’t, or that the papers aren’t legal forms if they are.

Debt collectors can’t threaten consumers by saying: the consumer will be arrested if they don’t pay their debt; that they will seize, garnish, attach, or sell the consumer’s property or wages unless the law allows them to do so and they plan on following through; or that legal action will be taken, unless the law allows and they plan to do.

Debt collectors are forbidden from giving a credit reporting agency or anyone else false credit information about you. They can’t misleadingly send anything that looks like an official court or government document if that not what it is, and they can’t use a fake company name.

These laws are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, but laws in many states differ. Your Attorney General can help you understand your rights under your state’s law.

If you feel your consumer rights have been violated by a debt collector’s action, contact the office of your state Attorney General at and the FTC at

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Tuesday, 07 July 2020

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