The best way to stop collection harassment is to know and enforce your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FDCPA is a powerful federal law that regulates what debt collectors can and can't do when collecting debts. In passing the FDCPA, Congress recognized the negative impact that abusive debt collection has on people and provided powerful remedies against collectors who break the law. Here's what you need to know about how the FDCPA protects you from debt collection harassment:
The FDCPA applies to "debt collectors" collecting "consumer debts"
The FDCPA only covers a debt collector that is collecting a debt for someone else. It does not apply to a creditor collecting its own debts. So if you are getting collection calls from a bank or credit card company that is collecting its own debts, the FDCPA doesn't apply. But the FDCPA does apply to collection agencies, debt buyers, and law firms who are collecting debts for someone else.
In addition, the FDCPA only applies when the debt being collected is a consumer debt. This is a debt used for personal, family, or household purposes. If the debt was incurred for a business, the FDCPA doesn't apply.
The FDCPA protects you even if you owe the debt
It doesn't matter if you owe the debt, the collector still must follow the FDCPA. The law recognizes that you shouldn't be subjected to collection harassment and abuse just because you owe someone money. The FDCPA also protects people who are being wrongfully pursued for debts that they don't owe.
Any conduct that is unfair, untrue, or harassing is prohibited
In general, any collection conduct that is harassing or abusive, false or misleading, or unfair is a violation of the FDCPA. This is extremely broad and potentially covers a wide range of collection tactics. The FDCPA itself and various court decisions have established that the following specific conduct is illegal:
Collecting a debt that you don't owe;
Communicating with other people about your debt;
Calling you at work after you've told the collector not to;
Harassing you, insulting you, or using racial slurs;
Continuing to call you after you tell them to stop;
Not telling you that they are a debt collector;
Robocalling your cell phone without your consent
Wrongfully garnishing your bank account or paycheck
This isn't an exhaustive list. If you think a collector's conduct might be illegal, you should talk to a consumer lawyer to determine whether the FDCPA has been violated.
How to use the FDCPA to stop collection harassment
The FDCPA gives consumers the power to sue a debt collector that violates the law. It's a great way to stop collection harassment cold and to hold the debt collector accountable for its illegal conduct. Under the FDCPA, a successful claim gets you:
Up to $1,000 in statutory damages (even if you've suffered no monetary loss);
Provable actual damages (including for emotional distress);
Your attorney fees and court costs must be paid by the collector
Most consumer lawyers, including me, handle FDCPA lawsuits on a contingency fee. This means that you don't pay us any fees unless I recover money for you and those fees come from the collector's pocket, not yours. Congress wrote the FDCPA this way to incentivize people to enforce the FDCPA and help the government regulate debt collectors and ensure compliance with the law.