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The Fair Debt Collection Act: FDCPA

written by: ShawnTe•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 8/1/2010

Many have experienced the frequent telephone calls and letters from collection agencies trying to collect on a debt they deem valid. There is a limit to what a debt collector can do while trying to collect on a debt and the Fair Debt Collection Act lays out these limits for us.

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    Types of Debt Covered

    The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) established by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was created in response to consumer complaints of overly aggressive and abusive behavior by debt collectors. Any personal or household debt that is not related to a personal or family owned business is covered under this act. This includes money owed for personal loans, auto loans, mortgages, credit cards, and medical bills. Unfortunately, for business owners, the Fair Debt Collection Act (what the FDCPA is commonly called) does not apply to your business debts. For the individual, understanding the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act can safe you from many headaches and arm you with information to report violations of the act.

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    Collection Calls

    A collector does have the right to contact you concerning a debt they believe you owe. However, the debt collector must first validate the debt with you before continuing correspondence with you. The collector needs to send a letter to you to validate the debt. You have 30 days to respond to acknowledge the debt or dispute it in writing.

    The collector can still obtain proof of debt from the creditor the debt was incurred with. After this time, the collector may begin correspondence again with you. Fortunately, you can request for the collector to stop contacting you. Such a request should be sent in writing via certified mail with a signed return receipt showing the letter was delivered to the collector. The FTC recommends making a copy of the letter before you send it for your records. Upon receipt of your letter, a collector can only legally contact you for two reasons, first to advise they will no longer contact you and last to advise of any specific action they may take, such as a lawsuit.

    According the the Fair Debt Collection Act (FDCPA), collectors can not contact you at will. This means collectors can not contact you, without consent, before 8am or after 9pm on any given day. In addition to these time constraints, collectors can not contact you at your job after they have been notified your employer does not allow such calls.

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    Contact with Third Parties

    The FDCPA does allow for collectors to contact a third party concerning your debt, though restrictions exist concerning this contact. A collector can speak with your lawyer concerning your debt, after you have provided the collector with your lawyer's information. Collectors also may contact another third party whose contact information they have, one time only to obtain your location and home phone number. Under the Fair Debt Collection Act, collectors are not allowed to discuss your debt with a third party who is not your lawyer.

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    The FDCPA- Fair Debt Collection Practices Act: What the Guidelines Mean to YouThe Fair Debt Collection Act sets forth guidelines which must be followed by debt collectors when they try to collect upon a valid debt. Read this article to find out more about what the Fair Debt Collect Act, also known as the FDCPA, means for you as a consumer and what you can do about it if you believe collectors are in violation of this act.
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    Prohibited Actions

    The Fair Debt Collection Act prohibits debt collectors from engaging in harassing and abusive behavior in an effort to collect a debt. A collector can not make any threats towards you whether they be physical threats, threats to defame character, and even threatening to take legal action unless the collector actually follows through in a timely manner. In addition to not issuing threats, a debt collector is not permitted to use obscene or profane language towards you, nor repeatedly call in an effort to annoy you.

    Debt Collectors are not allowed to make statements or false representations about who they are and what they can do. Collectors can not forge or falsify documentation in an effort to obtain repayment. In addition, a collector is not allowed under the Fair Debt Collection Act to misrepresent themselves as a government agency, credit reporting agency, or give a false company name.

    Collectors also are not permitted to use unfair practices to get you to repay a debt. Such practices include but are not limited to the following:

    • Collecting additional fees or interest illegally
    • Deposit or cash a post dated check early
    • Take or threaten to seize your property outside of the courts
    • Make contact with you via postcard
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    Garnishments

    Under the Fair Debt Collection Act, garnishments and attachments are prohibited for the collector to initiate on their own. However, if they sue you, a judge can issue a court order for your wages to be garnished, even your bank account(s). Most of the common federal benefits are exempt from garnishment such as:

    • Social Security and SSI Benefits
    • Veteran's Benefits
    • Student Assistance
    • Railroad Retirement Benefits
    • FEMA Assistance

    Visit the frequently asked questions section of the FDCPA, for a complete list of benefits exempt from garnishment. Keep in mind though, that while these benefits can not be garnished, this may not prevent your bank account(s) from being garnished.

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    Conclusion

    The Fair Debt Collection Act is there to protect you from harassment and abuse by debt collectors. The act limits the reach and tactics these collectors can use against you. However, this does not eliminate your debt and the collector still has the recourse to sue. You have up to one year to sue a collector for any violation of the law. To file a complaint and for more detailed information visit the FTC website or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.