Is a Debt Collector Violating Your Rights?
If a debt collector is harassing you through the mail or over the telephone, how can you stop the harassment? The first step is immediately scheduling a consultation to discuss your rights and your legal options with a West Virginia debt relief attorney.
Almost everyone gets harassed by debt collectors. Consumer surveys routinely suggest that about a third of the consumers in the United States were called by one or more creditors or debt collectors in the previous twelve months alone.
You may receive unpleasant phone calls at your job, late in the night, or too early in the morning. Debt collectors might call your friends or loved ones. Debt collectors sometimes scream and make threats. If you’re being harassed by a debt collector, how do you stop that harassment?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal statute that spells out what a debt collector may and may not do. Below, you will learn what the FDCPA provides, and you will also find out what a West Virginia debt relief lawyer will do to help you end the harassment.
Who is Considered a Debt Collector?
Under the FDCPA, a “debt collector” is an individual or business that works to collect debts for other parties. The law applies only to full-time collectors and not “original” creditors collecting their own debts, unless an original creditor tries to collect a debt using a different name.
Debt purchasers – which are businesses that purchase debts and then either collect or resell the debts – are also regulated by the FDCPA when the principal activity of the debt purchasing business is collecting debts.
Can a Debt Collector Share Details About Your Debt?
A number of abusive and deceptive debt collection practices sometimes used by debt collectors are illegal under the FDCPA. A debt collector, for instance, is not allowed to share any details about your debt with any third party, except for these third parties:
- your parents if you are under age 18, your spouse, and your co-debtors (if any)
- credit reporting agencies
- original creditors
- the attorney who represents you
After debt collectors learn that an attorney is representing you regarding your debt, they may not contact you directly. Instead, they must speak exclusively to your attorney. The only additional exception to the ban on third-party contacts is to determine your location.
When a Debt Collector Contacts a Third Party
When they contact a third party to determine your location, debt collectors are required to provide their names, and they may not reveal that you are being sought for a debt.
Additionally, a debt collector may not contact third parties a second time unless the third party has consented to the contact or the debt collector was given inaccurate information by the third party during their first contact.
When May Debt Collectors Legally Contact You?
The first time a debt collector contacts you, he or she must tell you a collection attempt is underway and that anything you may say can be used in the collection of your debt.
The FDCPA prevents debt collectors from calling:
- at an unusual or inconvenient time or place, specifically prior to 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- if the collector has been told that a lawyer represents you
- at work, if the collector has been told that your employer doesn’t allow you to take calls at work
Are There Other Illegal Collection Tactics?
Debt collectors may not harass or abuse you or threaten to harm you, your property, your loved ones, or your reputation. Obscene and abusive language is forbidden. Debt collectors may not call you repeatedly or fail to identify themselves. You’re allowed to hang up on these calls.
Debt collectors cannot advertise your debt for sale or indicate anywhere in print or on the internet that you are someone who has failed to pay a debt. If you are abused by any debt collector in any of these ways, discuss your case at once with a West Virginia debt relief attorney.
Debt collectors may not send you an envelope or postcard that suggests a debt is being collected. However, a debt collector may legally send you text messages and emails. These types of digital communications are not covered by the FDCPA, which became the law forty years ago and does not address digital communications.
What Else Does the FDCPA Address?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act also keeps debt collectors from:
- adding charges, fees, or interest unauthorized by the original agreement or by your own state’s laws
- taking a check postdated for more than five days, unless you’re notified prior to the check being deposited
- depositing postdated checks before a check’s date
What Can You Do to Stop the Harassment?
You do not have to owe a debt in order to be harassed by debt collectors. Debt collectors make mistakes, and unethical debt collectors sometimes sue and intimidate consumers about debts that don’t even exist. People sometimes pay those false debts, and debt collectors get away with it.
If a debt collector violates your rights, you may sue the debt collector for damages. You can learn more – and learn how the FDCPA applies to your own circumstances – by speaking to a debt relief attorney. But how can you find the right attorney to fight a debt collector on your behalf?
The Legal Help You Need is Here
In West Virginia, families and working people should know that as consumers, they have important legal rights. You should also know that good legal help is only a phone call away.
If a debt collector has been harassing you, or if you have been struggling to pay your debts, the time to speak with a West Virginia debt relief lawyer is today. The debt relief team at Hinkle Law has the experience and knowledge you need.
We’ve defended our clients against abusive debt collectors, and we have guided scores of West Virginians through the complicated bankruptcy process. Hinkle Law will defend you and advocate on your behalf, explain how the law applies in your own financial circumstances, and help you move constructively and positively into the future.
Our offices are located in Martinsburg and Charleston, West Virginia and Hagerstown, Maryland. To stop harassment by a debt collector, or to find out more about your debt relief options, promptly schedule a free case evaluation by calling Hinkle Law at (304) 592-4609.