If you have a debt collector continuously contacting you to pay off a debt, you have a say in the matter. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) makes it illegal to harass you over your debts. The law puts you in control of how often a debt collector contacts you and in what manner the communication takes place. Harsh words and misleading statements are all banned with the law.

Keep reading to find out exactly how the FDCPA makes the process of collecting debt more fair to you and actions you can take if your rights are violated.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects you

The FDCPA outlines precise rules that debt collectors have to follow when they try to collect a debt from you. Knowing these rules is essential for you to avoid being taken advantage of. The law places restrictions on when, how and in what manner a debt collector can communicate with you. They cannot, for example, lie to you or threaten to take away your property when that is not what the law says.

On top of that, the Fair Debt Collection Act does not allow any other unfair practices, such as collecting interest or fees on debt that’s not authorized to have such interest or fees. Additionally, the Act requires debt collectors to send you a letter verifying your debt within five days of the first contact. This letter must contain the amount you owe, the name of the party you owe and statements that assure they will follow up by mail to any written requests.

If you’re unsure whether or not a debt collector has broken the law, review the FDCPA carefully, or contact an attorney. The law is on your side, and you have options if you run into any issues.

Key aspects to know about

Validation of your debt. When a debt collector contacts you, they have five days to verify your debt in writing, as previous noted. In the letter they send you, the debt collector must inform you of the following: the amount of the debt, who you owe the debt to and what action to take if you don’t believe the debt is yours. If you don’t think you owe the debt, you have 30 days to write a letter requesting verification of the debt. This verification might be a bill or receipt for the money you owe. After you request confirmation, the debt collector isn’t allowed to try to get the funds again before it sends the required items.

Limits on communication. The act places limitations on when and how a debt collector can contact you. They are allowed to connect via mail, email, phone calls or text messages, but not in any manner they wish. First, debt collectors must make calls between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. local time. In addition, if you aren’t allowed to receive personal calls at work, they can’t call you there. Furthermore, after you hire an attorney, they can only communicate with you through the attorney. Plus, once you send a letter asking a debt collector to stop contacting you, they have to cease all contact.

No harassment. There are rules restricting how a debt collector speaks to you. It is illegal for them to threaten you with violence or harm or use profanity when they talk to you. Additionally, they cannot continuously call to irritate you into paying your debt. You’re protected from all types of harassment while going through the debt collection process under this act.

No misleading statements. A debt collector is banned from lying. For example, they can’t tell you that you owe more money than you do or mislead you about their identity, like posing as a member of a legal team or a government representative. Additionally, debt collectors can’t say you will be thrown in jail or sued if that’s not the case. What’s more, they can’t claim they are going to garnish your wages if they haven’t filed for the appropriate court order to do so. You will always have the opportunity to fight money held back from your paycheck in court before it happens.

No unfair practices. Debt collectors can’t use unfair practices when trying to collect money owed. They can’t try to charge interest on top of the original amount due when that’s not allowed, and they also can’t deposit a check that is post-dated before the date written on it. Furthermore, a debt collector can’t claim they will seize your property when it’s not legal.

What to do if your rights are violated

If it’s clear that the collection agency has broken the law, you’ll want to take action. In these cases, you have two available options.

First, you can register a complaint online. It’s a straightforward process that you can complete on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)’s website and is highly effective. In fact, 97% of complaints receive a rapid response. The bureau will send you email updates, and you can track the status of your claim by logging into the website. Then, the company’s response goes directly to the bureau, which you will receive and will be published as public data. You’ll then have 60 days to provide feedback to the response. For more information on how the complaint process works, check out the guide on the CFPB website.

Second, you can sue the debt collection agency directly for violating your rights. The only problem with this method is that you run the risk of having to pay legal fees. But if you win, the debt collector will have to foot that bill for you. Be sure to speak with your attorney to discuss your best option before making a decision one way or another.