Commentary

March 10, 2014

Law protects from unfair debt collection practices

Are you currently in debt to the point where you have debt collectors harassing you? If so, you should know that there is a federal law that can protect you from unfair debt collection practices. It will not completely eliminate the debts you owe, but will protect you from harassment and abuse by debt collectors.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act involves interactions with a collector that is a third party and not the original creditor. Usually creditors will sell your debt to a third party after making a reasonable effort to collect the debt themselves.  They do this because they can make more money by writing off the loss than by trying to bring you to court. Since creditors are so desperate to get rid of the debt, debt collectors usually buy these debts for pennies on the dollar.  The collector makes money by trying to collect as much of the debt from you as possible. So it should come as no surprise that some debt collectors use questionable practices to collect the debt.

The FDCPA states that the collector must tell you the amount of the debt, the name of the current creditor, and tell you that you have 30 days to dispute the debt. You have the right to tell the debt collector to validate the debt. A Fort Irwin Legal Assistance attorney can help you type up a letter for this purpose at the Legal Assistance Office.

A debt collector must always be up front.  They cannot make false statements or threats when attempting to collect the debt. For example, they cannot misrepresent themselves and claim to be working for a government agency, nor claim that you have committed a crime or state that you will be arrested if you do not pay.

They cannot use profane language or threaten to do violence or bodily harm to you, someone you know, your property or your reputation.  They must also call you during reasonable hours and cannot call you repeatedly simply to harass you.

The best way to get a debt collector to stop calling you is to confront the issue individually or with an attorney. You can set up an appointment with a Legal Assistance Attorney. Your attorney can tell the debt collector that you have legal representation and that all communications must go through the attorney.  We can also help to negotiate with the debt collector, if you so desire, to come to an amicable solution.

If you decide to deal with the debt collector individually, always remember to never give out information like your bank account, credit card, Social Security number, or birthday unless you know who you are dealing with. Scam artists sometimes pose as fake debt collectors in an attempt to steal your identity.

If you decide to come into our office and make an appointment, it will be helpful to have all written communications from the debt collector as well as the original creditor, if any. A detailed log of all telephone communications with the debt collector, to include the date and time of the call and the name of the person calling, will also be helpful to determine if a violation of federal law has been committed.

If a debt collector leaves a phone message, save them.  Remember that if you do not take care of legitimate debts, they may become an issue for those who have security clearances and can get your chain-of-command involved.  Call the Legal Assistance Office at 380-5321 to inquire about eligibility for our services.




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