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Collections : What creditors can and cannot do to recoup debt

What law governs debt collection?

Federal Fair Debt Collection law regulates debt collectors who contact you on behalf of your creditor. This includes attorneys who collect debts on a regular basis.

How may debt collectors contact you?

A debt collection agency is allowed to contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax. The agency is restricted, however, from contacting you at inconvenient times or places, for example, before 8AM or after 9PM, unless you agree. A debt collection agency is prohibited from contacting you at your place of employment if the agency knows that your employer disapproves.

What if you want to dispute the debt?

You must write a letter to the debt collection agency within 30 days of their initial contact with you regarding disputes over any or all of a debt. Thereafter, the agency is prohibited by law from contacting you again until it can send you verification of your debt.

How can you stop them from calling you?

You must write a letter to the debt collection agency to ask that they stop calling you. Once an agency receives your letter, they may not contact you any further except to inform you that there will be no further contact or that their agency or the creditor intends to take some specific action.

Harassing or Abusive Tactics:

Debt collection agencies are prohibited from the following harassing or abusive tactics:
· Use of or threatening violence or criminal means to harm you;
· Use of obscene or profane language;
· Advertising your debt for sale;
· Telephoning you repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy or harass; or
· Placing telephone calls without meaningful disclosures of their identity.

False or Misleading Representations:

Debt collection agencies may not deceive you with:
· False representations that they are government representatives;
· Falsely represent that they will seize, garnish or sell any property or wages unless such action is lawful;
· False representations that you have committed a crime or that you will be arrested or imprisoned;
· Threats to communicate false credit information with any other person;
· Falsely implying that the debt collector is employed by a credit bureau;
· False representations implying that they are attorneys or that there is involvement of an attorney in collecting a debt;
· Falsely indicating the legal status of papers or forms sent to you;
· Use of a false name;
· Misrepresenting the amount of debt; or
· Sending you something resembling an official document from a court or governmental agency when it is not.

Other Unfair Practices:

Debt collection agencies may not:
· Collect an amount greater than what you owe;
· Deposit a post-dated check prior to the date on the check;
· Contact you by postcard;
· Threaten to take possession of your property through non-judicial action when there is no right to do so.


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