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!

FDCPA can help you fight against 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.

LAWYER FEES

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:

  1. You are a consumer;
  2. The debt is a consumer debt (personal, household, family – not business),
  3. The collector is a “debt collector”, and
  4. 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:

  1. Unfair conduct towards you,
  2. Untrue statements made to you, and
  3. 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.

  1. Unfair conductCalling 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. Free lawyer paid for by the defendant debt collector
  2. Costs and expenses of litigation are paid for by defendant debt collector
  3. $1,000 in statutory damages if you have no actual damages
  4. 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?

A.  Revoke the permission.  Revoke the consent.  Tell the collector in writing (best practice) that you are taking away any permission that you may have given for the collector to call your cell phone.

 

Q.  OK – what does the TCPA give to me?

A.  Some wonderful tools to stop abusive collectors.  You get the following:

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.

-John G. Watts

 


15 Comments

  1. […] if the collector does treat you poorly or is dishonest with you or otherwise breaks the law (see our FAQ on the FDCPA) then you should consider suing the collector.  If people do not defend themselves against these […]

  2. My family has recently been transferred to a debt collector so far for only 300 dollars. Both of my parents are unemployed and my mom is very sick so the medical bill are piling up. Can they legally take away our car or our house? What if we fall more in debt?

    • John Watts says:

      A debt collector can collect on any amount — even smaller amounts like $300. At least in Alabama your car and house cannot be taken away unless you are sued and then the company gets a judgment against you.

      It is technically possible to have a “sheriff’s sale” of your house or car but I can’t imagine that would happen for $300.

      Make sure you talk to the debt collector in the right way and normally it is a good idea to dispute the debt in writing.

      If you are in Alabama feel free to call my office at 205-879-2447 and someone here can chat with you to get more details.

      Best wishes

      John Watts

  3. zizou garcia says:

    Hi I had got a call from a debt collector where the agent failed to tell his last name. Can I file a lawsuit for that and will I get any benefit by doing that? Thanks.

    • John Watts says:

      If that is the only thing the collector did wrong then I would not file that lawsuit. Others may say it violates the FDCPA but I don’t think that is a proper suit to bring. Now maybe other things happened or the agent became abusive when you asked for his last name, etc. but simply refusing to tell you his last name is not something that I as a lawyer would file suit over.

      Thanks for your question and if there are more details feel free to reach out to us and we’ll be glad to chat with you.

      John Watts
      205-879-2447

  4. kathy Cruthirds says:

    I have a collector calling my mom and dad’s house. I call them back and all they will tell me is that they are an investigator and that hsbc is going to prosecute me for fraud. This is concerning a credit card debt that I defaulted on in 2010. I am unable to pay it. They will not tell me the name of the business they represent, they will not give me a mailing address. The last call they made to me they asked if I had guns or dogs at my house because they were sending a uniformed police officer to serve me. How can I send them a dispute letter if they will not give me the name of the business nor the mailing address?
    Thank you

    • John Watts says:

      Kathy,

      This sounds like a frustrating experience of dealing with scam debt collectors. Not talking about debt collectors that break the law — most companies do this — but a company that is “off the grid” and a complete scam.

      The most common features are:

      **Threats of arrest (almost never legitimate)
      **Refusal to give you their name or they give you a vague threatening name
      **Refusal to give you their address

      Here’s my suggestions:
      **Call them and tell them you want to make sure they are not a fraud and a scam and to do this you need them to send you a real letter through the mail (not fax and not email). [They almost always refuse to do this].

      **When they say they are having you arrested ask through which police department, sheriff’s department, or district attorney as you want to call that place to see what this is about. [They will almost certainly refuse].

      **Pull your credit reports through http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com and let’s see if anyone is on there claiming to own or collect on this HSBC debt. May help you identify the company calling you.

      I’m assuming you live in Alabama — if not then ignore the above as I don’t know what your laws are in your state. But if you are in Alabama you are welcome to contact us after you pull your credit reports and after you talk to these guys and we will help you figure out where you are in this process and to help you discover the next steps to take.

      Best wishes and sorry you are dealing with places like this one.

      John Watts

  5. terena taylor says:

    I owe a personal loan with collateral, I have went in twice to talk to them and they wanted me to pay a renewal fee. I told them I wanted to make payment arrangements and they refused. Now they are calling making threats and telling me to be an adult, They have come to my house when I was not home and threatened my 16 yr old son, Told him they were coming out the next day to take his ps3 game system. Then they came and we didn’t answer the door and they went from window to window beating and yelling my name and went across the street talking to my neighbor about the loan, Now they are calling my landlord 4 to 5 times aday and leaving messages on her machine for her to tell me if I don’t pay they are coming after my collateral, I wrote them a letter asking them to stop calling my landlord and neighbor but they haven’t stopped and I don’t know what to do, HELP !!!!

    • John Watts says:

      Terena,

      I assume the one threatening you is the loan company?

      It sounds like they have crossed the line of what Alabama law allows — if it is the original creditor (the one who loaned you the money) then the FDCPA does not apply. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act only applies to debt collectors.

      If you live in Alabama give us a call at 205-879-2447 and we’ll be glad to talk with you about your options.

      John Watt
      205-879-2447

  6. terena taylor says:

    I forgot to mention I live on a fixed income (disability) and I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks which has made me afraid to even walk out my door without fear.

  7. Kim says:

    Both my spouse and I were in the military when got furniture from USA discounters. Not knowing the company filed for bankruptcy and was investigated and closed down for reaping off soldiers. My husband got out of military because of our several my disabilied son which left all the bills on myself for a few months i couldn’t offered to pay USA discounters the entire amount they harrased me said that they pull my credit report how can i pay all my other bills but not them after explaining my situation to them they belittled me and question why my husband got out and that he shouldn’t have gotten out.my husband shortly after started getting a little unemployment so I was able to pay the full amount agian I told them that his unemployment stopped and that he found work but pending background check before he can start they said they are going to send my file to the level department because they can work out any arrangement or lower my payments. This company has garnished several soldier wages instead of working with me I feel like they are putting me in a more financial hardship what can i do?

    • John Watts says:

      Kim,

      Sorry you had to deal with all of this. If you are in Alabama now, give us a call at 205-879-2447 and we’ll see what we can do to help. With these kinds of folks, we have to look at all the consumer protection laws to see what our options are.

      The company that was harassing you and telling you your husband should have stayed in, etc. — was that USA Discounters or a collection agency?

      Who is on your credit reports — USA Discounters or a debt collector?

      Give us a call if you are in Alabama and we’ll be happy to help anyway we can. 205-879-2447.

      Thanks

      John Watts

  8. Mary says:

    A collection company keeps calling my and when we answer they hang up. They call at least twice a day. Today they decided to speak with my husband, he explained that we’re both disabled and I have some serious health problems and we can’t afford to pay anything at this time. The man told my husband they would continue to call because the bill had to be paid. What can we do

    • John Watts says:

      Mary,

      Sorry you are dealing with this.

      Here’s my suggestion (assuming this is a debt collector subject to the FDCPA):

      1. Document the calls. So take pictures of the calls on your caller ID. If calling your cell phone, then take a screenshot or a picture to show each time they call. Keep a notebook by the phone and use a pen to mark down the time and date and phone number.

      2. See if you can figure out if it is a human being calling or a computer that is calling — the hang ups suggest a computer is calling. One way is when you answer, is there a delay or a message? Or does it go straight to a person speaking? There are other ways but this is one easy way to figure this out.

      3. Have they sent you any collection letters? Save any letters and envelopes.

      4. Get with a consumer protection lawyer — if you are in Alabama call us at 205-879-2447. We can walk you through these steps and others that we don’t want to put in a public comment.

      You do have some options and we can make these guys stop calling you or we can sue them so they stop and pay you money damages.

      Give us a call — 205-879-2447.

      Thanks for reaching out to us.

      John Watts

      PS — if you live outside of Alabama get with a lawyer in your state as we are only licensed in Alabama. Thanks! John

  9. […] firm seeking payment of an alleged homeowner’s association fee constitute a “debt” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?  Yes it […]

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