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Bill Collector Harassment & Illegal Debt Collection Practices
Consumers who fall victim to debt or bill collector harassment or other unethical acts on the part of debt collectors may be eligible to file a lawsuit under consumer protection laws to stop the offending debt or bill collector. Various federal and state debt collection laws are designed to protect consumers from harassing, threatening or otherwise intrusive actions from debt collectors.
There are three pieces of federal legislation to protect consumers from invasive debt collectors. Those are the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Together, these statutes set out when debt collectors can contact debtors, how they can contact debtors and what action they can legally take against consumers who owe money.
Debt Collector Harassment Laws
Among areas that are governed are the hours a debt collector can call, who the debt collector can call - calls to non-debtors, such as family members, are illegal - and activities that constitute threatening or repeated phone calls. Violations of these federal laws can result in statutory fines, which can run up to $500 to $1,000 per occurrence of a prohibited act.
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act sets out how the debt collector must conduct him or herself when contacting the consumer. It is illegal for the debt collector to contact the debtor at any time that is known to be inconvenient to the debtor or anytime outside the hours of 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM. It is also illegal to discuss the debtor's information with third parties without the debtor's consent. Furthermore, it is illegal to harass, oppress or abuse consumers while attempting to collect on a debt. This includes the use or threat of violence, the use of obscene or profane language, or repeatedly calling the consumer with the intent to harass him.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a consumer whose credit has been wrongfully lowered can seek to recover based on the number of points their credit was lowered. Furthermore, the consumer can also seek injunctive relief to raise his or her credit score back to the point it would have been at if not for the negligent reporting.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act
This can be especially important to consumers who are wrongly accused of owing money and are then reported to credit agencies based on that non-existent debt.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act makes it illegal for an organization or person - without the consent of the called party - to use an automatic telephone dialing system or artificial prerecorded voice to contact a cell phone. Giving the cell phone as the contact phone number is considered consent to having them call the cell phone. Each illegal phone call is considered a violation of this legislation can result in $500 to $1,500 fines per violation.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act
There are various scams debt collectors will use to harass or intimidate consumers into paying debt - even if the consumer being targeted does not actually owe that debt. Some scams include attempting to collect on an old debt - there is a statute of limitations on when a debt can be collected on; attempting to collect from a person with the same name as the debtor but who does not actually owe the debt (often referred to as debt tagging), re-aging the debt - making the debt appear more recent than it is, negatively affecting the consumer's credit score; and threatening to file criminal charges (consumer debt is not punishable in criminal court).
Types of Debt Collection Scams
Other debt collector scams can include the caller misrepresenting the amount that is owed, asking to pay interest and fees not allowed by law, fraudulently sending correspondence that looks like a legal or "official" document when in reality it is not, and falsely representing that they are attorneys or government representatives.
Debt Collector Harassment Legal HelpIf you or a loved one has suffered Debt Collector Harassment damages or injuries, please click the link below and your complaint will be sent to a Debt Collector Harassment lawyer who may evaluate your claim at no cost or obligation.
Last updated on May-8-15
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