The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from using unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect any debt. The FDCPA tries to balance creditors’ interests in being paid back their debts with debtors’ interests in being free from harassment and intimidation.
Accordingly, creditors are allowed to contact you but are bound by certain guidelines.
They Must Not Mislead You
A creditor cannot make any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with any debt collection under Fair Debt Collection Practices Act,§ 807.
What does that even mean, you ask?
In other words, they can’t try to collect money that isn’t legitimately owed to pad the invoices. To convince you to do something, they can’t just say things.
They Must Identify Themselves
Creditors must identify themselves when they call you. For example, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act § 807 (3), they can’t say they are an attorney, are calling on behalf of an attorney, or operate a consumer reporting agency.
They Must Contact You at a Reasonable Time
Creditors cannot contact you at an unusual time or place or somewhere that they know is inconvenient for you. They aren’t allowed to call you before 8 am or after 9 pm. You can ask a creditor not to bother you in a letter. This is done to stop the debtor from being disturbed by debt collectors in the middle of the night and possibly at work if you have instructed them not to contact you.
They Must State the ‘Mini Miranda’
They must give you a “mini Miranda”—a set of statements debt collectors must use when attempting to collect a debt, essentially informing you of your rights. Many debt collectors claim to have an arrest warrant for the debtor. That is entirely forbidden. Even though you owe the debt, you cannot be mistreated. To recover the debt, they must do so respectfully and legally.
They Must Not Harass You
Creditors may not harass you or anyone else through any means of contact. If a debt collector has been attempting to contact you but has been unsuccessful, they will try different approaches. Calling your family members to determine how to reach you most effectively may be part of that.
This is not illegal. However there are restrictions on what debt collectors can say when contacting other persons to locate you under the FDCPA. Debt collectors are often only permitted to contact a person once, and they can only contact your relatives to identify you and not to collect money for your debt.
They Must Respect Do Not Call Arrangements
Creditors shouldn’t call you when you have informed them to stop contacting you. For example, the debt collector may continue to call you at work after you have told them never to call you at your workplace. They may keep calling when you have sent them a formal letter saying that they can only communicate with you through a letter.
Debt collectors are trying to speak to you in any way they can to pressure, shame, threaten or overwhelm you into paying your debt. Sometimes, they cross the line. Consult an experienced Mississippi debt collection harassment attorney at Ware Law Firm today.
Your Damages in an FDCPA Lawsuit
When a creditor has violated your legal rights under the FDCPA, you can file a civil lawsuit against them.
The law allows you the following remedies:
- $1,000 for each violation as statutory damages (this is a strict liability – the debt collector need not intend to break the law)
- Physical distress that you have suffered from the effects of being harassed or bullied by a debt collector
- Emotional distress from debt collection harassment practices
- Lost wages if calls to your office interfered with your ability to earn money at work