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Fair Debt Collection Practices Act – In a Nutshell

If you are falling behind on your bills, it is likely that you are going to start getting calls from collectors. If you are facing this situation it is important to understand that the collection industry is heavily regulated by the federal government and that you do have rights as an American citizen.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair or deceptive practices when attempting to collect a debt.

The FDCPA covers personal, family, and household debts, including money that you owe on credit card accounts, auto loans, medical bills and your mortgage. The FDCPA does not cover business debts.

The FDCPA prohibits collectors from using certain aggressive and unethical practices.

  1. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. For example, they cannot threaten violence or harm, use obscene of profane language or call you repeatedly to annoy you.

  2. A debt collector may not lie to you when they are trying to collect a debt. They may not falsely claim they are attorneys, government representatives or work for a credit reporting agency and they cannot suggest that you have committed a crime or that you will be arrested if you don’t pay the debt.

  3. Debt collectors cannot threaten legal action unless they intent to do so.

  4. Debt collectors cannot inform anyone other than yourself that the intent of the call is to collect a debt, they cannot publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts, and they cannot contact you by postcard.

The FDCPA is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and provides for recourse if a debt collector violates the law. In fact, you may be awarded up to $1,000 without having to prove that you suffered actual damages. You can report any problems you have with a debt collector to your state Attorney General’s office (www.naag.org) and the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov).

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