Know Your Rights and How to Deal with Collection Agencies

Being in debt doesn’t mean collectors can abuse you. If you’ve felt harassed about outstanding debts, you have rights and several available actions to take to protect yourself from further abuse.

Laws Protecting Consumers

There are two major acts that govern consumer debt: The Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA (15 U.S.C. § 1681), enacted in 1970 and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA (15 U.S.C. § 1692). The FCRA promotes the accuracy of credit reports by indicating what can and cannot be reported. The FDCPA aims to prevent abuse by collectors and to establish procedures for disputing debt information and unsavory practices. You can find the complete text of both acts online:



Your Rights in a Nutshell

The FDCPA puts some strict limitations on how collection agencies can communicate with you. If a collection agency commits any of the following acts, they have breached 15 U.S.C. § 1692d, the FDCPA’s communication clause:

Additionally, they have breached 15 U.S.C. § 1692e, the FDCPA’s “harassment or abuse” clause if they:

In any of these cases, you should bring the evidence to a lawyer and discuss your options for legal action. Initial consultations are often free and with sufficient evidence, you may have a strong case to sue the agency for damages.

Disputing a Debt

If a collection agency contacts you by phone, employ the following actions:

Collecting Inescapable Evidence

When you take legal action, it’s not enough to claim you’ve been wronged. You’ll need evidence to prove your case.

Know the phone recording laws in your state. Federal law permits recording telephone calls and in-person conversations with the consent of at least one of the parties, however consent requirements can differ from state to state, across state lines, and in business and/or criminal cases. Always ask for the name of the person(s) you speak with on the phone and note when each call takes place.

Always use certified mail with a return receipt requested. This creates a paper trail and starts the clock on the seven-year reporting time for debt. If a debt is not verified or collected within seven years, it falls off your credit report (15 U.S.C. § 1681c).

Collection agencies act intimidating, but you have the law on your side.

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