FAQ About Debt Collector Harassment Which Violates The FDCPA
Is A Debt Collector Harassing You Illegally?
Find Out What Your Rights Are So You Can Take Action Against Abusive Debt Collectors!
We realize that dealing with debt collectors can be intimidating. Not just because abusive collectors are intimidating but also because you may not fully understand your rights and what collectors can, and cannot, do in collecting a debt from you.
We have laid out some typical questions that we are asked by Alabama consumers who want to know more about their rights. We hope this is helpful to you also.
Q. How much does it cost to talk to you about my situation where I think I’m being harassed by a debt collector?
A. Nothing. We always are happy to talk and meet with you to go over your particular situation so that we can help you understand what your options and choices are in dealing with debt collectors.
WHAT IF I OWE THE MONEY?
Q. I’m pretty sure I owe the money that the collector says I owe. Am I out of luck? Can’t the debt collector do whatever it wants since I owe the money?
A. It doesn’t matter if you owe the money – the debt collector must still follow the law and cannot harass you. Saying to a federal judge, “Yes we abused him or her but they owed the money” is not effective at all!
WHAT IS THE FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT (“FDCPA”)?
Q. I’ve heard about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Does it apply in my situation?
A. The FDCPA applies when four things are present:
- You are a consumer;
- The debt is a consumer debt (personal, household, family – not business),
- The collector is a “debt collector”, and
- There is a violation of the FDCPA.
Q. Let me make sure I understand. What is a “consumer”?
A. A consumer is an individual. The easiest way to think about it is this way – a corporation or partnership is not a consumer. A person is a consumer.
Q. What is a “consumer debt”?
A. This means a debt that is not a business debt. It could be a car loan, a home loan, a credit card, a medical bill, etc. Basically it is accurate to say anything that is not a business loan or debt probably is a consumer debt.
Q. I’m not sure if the company calling me is a “debt collector” – how do I know?
A. A “debt collector” under the FDCPA is a company that is not the original creditor. It is not the hospital. It is not the credit card company. It is not the car finance company. It is a company, sometimes called a “third party” collector, that has been hired by the original creditor or someone else to collect the debt. It also includes “debt buyers” – companies that buy up debt that is in default and then they either collect it or send it out to collection agencies.
Basically the test is when this company first “touched” the debt, was the debt current or in default? If current, then the company will not be a debt collector. But if the debt was in default, then the company likely is a debt collector under the FDCPA.
WHAT IS A VIOLATION OF THE FDCPA?
Q. OK. I’m a consumer and I’m dealing with an old credit card debt. It is a collection agency calling me and my neighbors. How do I know if this violates the FDCPA?
A. The FDCPA has a lot of parts to it but we can summarize it this way. If a debt collector acts towards you in any one of the following ways, it is normally a violation of the FDCPA:
- Unfair conduct towards you,
- Untrue statements made to you, and
- Treating you in an undignified manner or not treating you with respect.
Q. What are some examples of violations of the FDCPA?
A. There are so many different examples. We’ll just touch on a few.
- Unfair conduct – Calling your neighbors to embarrass you (known as a “block party”). Calling your co-workers (called an “office party”). Suing you on a debt that you do not owe. Putting false information on your credit reports. It is also unfair to leave you voice mail messages on your cell phone, work phone or home phone that are harassing or do not contain the required warnings. To be clear — most voice mail messages violate the FDCPA.
- Untrue statements – Lying to you about whether you owe the money. For example debt collectors often say if you are married or were married you owe your spouse’s debts, even if you were not on them. Telling you that you will go to jail unless you pay for the old credit card debt. Lying to you about suing you when the collector cannot or will not sue. We see lots of lies regarding student loans, as student loan collectors love to lie about garnishing your wages. False information on your credit reports is not only unfair but is a lie.
- Treating you in an undignified way or without respect – using profanity with you. Insulting you. Calling you repeatedly to harass you. Yelling at you.
WHAT DO I GET FROM THE FDCPA?
Q. OK – the FDCPA covers my situation. How does the FDCPA help me?
A. The FDCPA provides four wonderful benefits:
- Free lawyer paid for by the defendant debt collector
- Costs and expenses of litigation are paid for by defendant debt collector
- $1,000 in statutory damages if you have no actual damages
- Actual damages (including emotional distress) if you have been harmed by the harassing debt collector.
Q. How do I get a free lawyer paid for by the debt collector?
A. If we are successful in your case and settle the case, our fee comes from the settlement amount that is paid by the debt collector. If we try the case, the court can award attorney’s fees and make the defendant debt collector pay it.
Q. What about the costs and expenses of litigation? I always heard it was expensive to file a lawsuit.
A. The defendant debt collector can also be required to pay the costs and expenses of the litigation. We advance that money anyway – if we are not successful we do not get it back. If we are successful, then we get reimbursed that money out of the settlement or the judgment that the defendant debt collector pays.
WHAT DOES THE TELEPHONE CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT (TCPA) DO FOR ME IN STOPPING ABUSIVE COLLECTORS?
Q. What is the TCPA and why should I care about it?
A. The TCPA protects you against collection calls to your cell phone — it is very powerful law that collectors hate.
Q. How and when does the TCPA protect me from collection calls to my cell phone?
A. The TCPA prevents auto dialed calls (computer dialed calls) to your cell phone unless you gave the collector or the original creditor permission to call your cell phone. It also prevents “pre-recorded” messages – these are messages that are not being left live but instead were previously recorded or they are computer generated voices.
Q. What if I may have given permission for these guys to call my cell phone? What can I do?
Q. OK – what does the TCPA give to me?
A. Some wonderful tools to stop abusive collectors. You get the following:
- Actual damages (similar to the FDCPA);
- Statutory damages of either $500 or $1500 . . . per call; and
- It applies to anybody – not just collectors – so it applies to auto finance companies (GMAC, Nuvell, Ford Motor, etc), to credit card companies (AMEX, Chase, Discover, etc) and to mortgage companies (Bank of America, Litton Loan, Wells Fargo, etc).
WHAT DO I DO RIGHT NOW IF I THINK I MIGHT BE GETTING HARASSED?
Q. What do I do if I am getting collection calls or letters right now from a bill collector?
A. Make sure you document the calls coming in by using our collection log or something similar. Also, we do not advise recording calls (its ok to record voicemails) as this can lead to you being prosecuted in other states. We don’t agree with this but its a possibility now that we think should be avoided. Simply take very detailed, thorough notes, and you will be in the good position of having documented the call.
Q. OK, I want to discuss this with you. What do I do?
A. It’s simple. Call us at 205-879-2447 or 205-714-4443 or you can also fill out our “contact us” form.
Contact us today as there are time limits that apply and the sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start the process of helping you to not have to deal with illegal harassing conduct.