Hundreds of thousands of consumers are contacted by debt collectors regarding delinquent debts every single day. Receiving these calls and notices can cause a great deal of stress. In fact, one could list dealing with debt collection activities right along with public speaking as one of the worst experiences. While it is possible to avoid speaking in front of people, avoiding a debt collector isn’t a good idea. However, there are certain ways to go about dealing with collection agencies. Read Part 1 of this series to find out how consumer law works and can help you fight debt collectors who use illegal practices.
Know the Laws
Debt collection is a billion dollar industry, so it’s worth it to debt collectors to violate state and federal statutes. Sometimes they get caught, but mostly they get away with illegal practices, so there is little reason for them to be in compliance.
With that in mind, let’s review some of the laws and then we’ll discuss how to deal with collectors, from a legal postulation. The following is not exhaustive by any means, but are typical in California and are potentially illegal:
- Early Morning Calls (before 8AM)
- Late Evening Calls (After 9PM)
- Excessive Calls
- Abusive Speech
- Calling Neighbors
- Calling Relatives
- Calling Place of Employment
- Threats of a Law Suit
- Leaving a Message about the Debt
- A Pre-recorded Collection Message
- The Envelope Is Identified From a Debt Collector
- A Date to Comply or Face Litigation (This letter is in violation if that date comes and goes and there is no subsequent litigation).
- A Collection Notice that adds interest to the debt.
- A threat of Litigation in the letter and the debt is considered old.
So, if you believe your rights may have been violated, what steps should you take?
Catch Them in the Act
First of all, endeavor to keep a record of all the incoming calls and do not throw away letters. Create a folder for them. Now, as the calls come in, without answering the phone, listen to and keep a recording of the message. Determine if any of the above statutes have been violated. Read any letters and compare their content with the above and again, determine if statutes may have been violated.
If a violation has occurred, the collector can be sued. The result could be a cash award for the amount that the statutes allows for; typically a thousand dollars. Often too, the suit will result in the debt collector forgiving the debt.
But what if you’re not sure if a violation has occurred? Or maybe the debt collector is hiding their identity? Watch for Part 3 of this series next week, where we outline detailed approaches to several situations you may find yourself in.
If you believe your rights may have been violated we encourage you to contact us. The consumer-rights attorney that we use gets paid directly from the defendant (collection agency) and will not charge you for this service.
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