To stop debt collection agencies from repeatedly calling, consumers can simply send a letter requesting that the collector stop calling them. After a consumer requests the collector to stop calling, any subsequent collection phone calls violate the FDCPA.
If the debt collector refuses to honor a consumer’s cease and desist request, and continues to robo call a consumer’s cell phone, using an automated telephone dialing system (ATDS), then the collection agency exposes itself to paying the consumer’s attorney fees and statutory penalty damages of $500-$1500 per call.
Examples of h Debt Collectors violate the law are:
- • False claims to be attorneys or credit reporting agencies when they are not.
- • False claims that letters and papers are legal court documents.
- • False threats to sue debtors or to have debtors arrested.
- • False threats to garnish wages, tax refunds, social security or other property.
- • Threats to sue on time barred debt.
- • Not informing debtor that the statute of limitations has run and they cannot sue.
Consumers who feel they have been victims of unfair or deceptive debt collection practices can file civil suits against debt collectors – but they must do so within one year of when the violations occurred. If successful in court, an individual consumer may be awarded damages for actual losses incurred (including emotional distress), court costs, lawyer fees and up to $1,000 in statutory damages.
Consumers should keep copies of all letters to and from debt collectors, as well as copies of the envelope with proper addresses and stamp. It is also helpful to keep notes of the day and time of calls, who called, what was said, etc. especially if there are multiple debts and multiple debt collectors or debt buyers calling.
What you should do
1. Educate yourself about your rights. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has excellent publications designed to educate consumers about their rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Harassing and nuisance phone calls, threats and abusive language are illegal, and you should report them to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and / or your state attorney general’s office. Find your state attorney general through the National Association of Attorneys General. Submit a complaint to the CFPB via its website or by phone at 855-411-2372.
2. Take your head out of the sand. ANSWER THE PHONE and be polite (you are being recorded). Always ask for written proof that you owe. Tell the collector to stop calling and that you will respond in writing. Do not assume you owe the debt or the amount they claim. Don’t ignore letters or phone calls about debts or court notices about debt lawsuits. Don’t delay especially if the debt isn’t yours.
3. Find and consult with an experienced and reputable consumer lawyer. If you are served with a notice of a credit card collection lawsuit, find an attorney who specializes in consumer law to represent you in court. The National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) provides an attorney lookup page on its website. Rex Anderson has been an active member of NACA for well over a decade. Over the past five years, the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) in Washington DC has asked Rex Anderson to give presentations on consumer debt collection issues, and to teach other consumer lawyers who are members of NACA.
4. Keep copies and records — forever. If a question ever arises about the debt, you will have documentation. This is especially true in student loan cases, where student loan debt collections continue until and after the student / borrower goes to the grave. On the other hand, credit card debts are no longer legally enforceable after the statute of limitations (SOL) passes. In Michigan, the SOL is six (6) years after the last payment. Payment on debt revives the SOL for another six years. It is also illegal for the collector to ask for payment without advising the consumer that debt is a “stale” debt and is no longer legally enforceable. On all collection calls to cell phones, listen for telltale signs of auto dialers, pre-recorded or artificial voice messages, clicking noises and delays before a live person is connected to the call. Make a note, and call a consumer lawyer right away to discuss this. These techniques can violate the telephone consumer protection act (TCPA) and result in the caller paying the consumer $500-$1500 penalty damages per call.
5. Protect your bank accounts. Debt buyers often file collection lawsuits against consumers without serving a copy on the consumer. This is called “sewer service.” Later they obtain default judgments without the consumers ever knowing that they were sued. The first time the consumer becomes aware is when their bank account is frozen or their tax refund is garnished. This can be devastating for family budgets and cash flow. It is prudent to have separate bank accounts for Social Security or disability checks – which are exempt – and cannot be garnished to pay court-ordered debt payments. Tell collectors that your bank account contains only exempt funds or if applicable that the debt was discharged and provide your bankruptcy case number. Never pay a debt collector from exempt funds. Instead focus on keeping your current bills paid and up to date.
6. Do not give debt collectors your bank account and routing numbers. Request that collector give a physical address to mail payment and never agree to electronic transfers. Make payments with money orders or some other third-party payment service so that you have proof of payment, do not ever pay with a personal check.
7. Record conversations. If collector uses abusive, disrespectful language, threats or vulgarity then recording the conversation will document it and prove the violations.
8. Any agreements for making debt collection payments should be confirmed in writing and signed by a representative of the debt collector before sending in any payments. This avoids misunderstandings about the amounts to be paid or time period to make payments.
So if you are experiencing Collection Harassment and want more information on how to make it stop, call Rex Anderson PC for help and Stop Collection Harassment today.
For more information, call: (810) 653-3300 / (800) 4-ATTY-REX today, or send a confidential email to: firstname.lastname@example.org – we look forward to being of assistance.