While our clients may be disabled and not working, that does not mean that they are not accumulating debt. In fact, many are suffering under significant burdens with medical bills, credit card debt, payday loans, automobile loans and mortgages in default.
Consumers do have some protection. A federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) controls debt collectors and gives consumers an avenue when they are mistreated.
FDCPA focuses upon “debt collectors” – that means people who are trying to collect the debts for another company. Examples include collections agencies and lawyers collecting debts for others. A company trying to collect its own debt does not fall under this guideline.
Business debts are excluded from this law, as are child support, government fines and auto accident debts.
Bill collectors are limited by this law in their harassment of debtors. They cannot contact a debtor before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. unless permission has been given. They also cannot contact debtors on the job if they know this is forbidden by the employer. While they can speak with third parties to find out where a debtor lives or works, they cannot disclose that there is an outstanding debt. If the debtor has a lawyer, then all contact must be through the lawyer’s office.
If a debtor files bankruptcy the attorney handling that bankruptcy should be notified immediately if there is still contact after the debt collector has been given notice of the filing.
The FDCPA protects debtors from actions which cause harassment. A debt collector cannot threaten violence, call repeatedly, pretend they are from the government, imply that a crime has been committed by the failure to pay, threaten to take property without court proceedings, use a postcard to make contact or even send a letter with a return address on the envelope disclosing that it is coming from a debt collector. If a debt collector uses profane or abusive language that is a violation of the law.