Post COVID-19, debt collector abuse is becoming increasingly common and with more people falling into debt, there are more people begging for help as they are bullied relentlessly. At Weidner Law, we work hard to protect consumers from abusive debt collection practices and one way that we do that is by educating consumers about what is and is not acceptable when it comes to debt collector practices.
Debt Collector Abuse – What You Need to Know When You Owe
The first thing it is important to know when it comes to debt collections, is that regulations for debt collection vary by state. As an attorney operating in Florida, information in this article is based on Florida laws.
Debt Collection Abuse Protection For Consumers
Floridians are protected from unfair debt collection practices by the Florida Consumer Collection Protection Act (FCCPA) as well as The Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Both of these practices provide protection for those in debt against unfair or abusive debt collection practices. Unfortunately, many debt collectors like to skirt around these protections and take advantage of consumers who don’t know any better. So, here is what you need to know…
Florida Consumer Collection Protection Act (FCCPA)
The Florida Consumer Collection Protection Act (FCCPA)
- Prohibits debt collectors from enforcing a debt when they know that the debt is not legally owed.
- Prohibits debt collectors from using profanity or vulgar language.
- Prohibits debt collectors from using threats of force or violence.
- Prohibits debt collectors from pretending to be a law enforcement officer or employee of any government agency.
- Prohibits debt collectors from informing the debtor’s employer of his debt.
- Prohibits debt collectors from continual communication with the debtor so as to constitute harassment.
Under the FCCPA, if a debt collector breaches any of the laws above, the debtor may be able to recover up to $1,000 in damages plus added attorney fees and more.
The Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
The Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
- Prohibits debt collectors from using any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.
- Prohibits debt collectors from harassing or annoying debtors.
- Prohibits debt collectors from threatening debtors with arrest.
- Prohibits debt collectors from threatening legal action unless litigation is being contemplated.
- Prohibits debt collectors from contacting debtors before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
- Prohibits debt collectors from contacting debtors on holidays or weekends unless they know or have reason to know that doing so would be “inconvenient” to the debtor.
- Prohibits debt collectors from contacting a debtor directly if they know the debtor is represented by counsel.
- Requires that in their first communication with the consumer, debt collectors “notify debtors about their ability to challenge the validity of a debt and to provide other basic information..”
- Requires that debt collectors inform the debtor of his or her right to ask the collection agency to “validate” the debt.
The FDCPA also provides for debtors to carry out private rights of action against debt collectors, and allows debtors to recover actual damages, statutory damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs for violations of its terms.
The FDCPA was initially intended to protect debtors from third-party collection agencies and not the original creditor, but states that have their own state protections for debtors often provide protections for debtors against original creditors, too.
Should You Seek Legal Representation?
If you have been subject to harassing, abusive debt collection practices, we recommend seeking legal representation. Unfortunately, debt collection agencies that are willing to break the law while trying to collect on a debt are usually aggressive agencies that are willing to continue with such abusive debt collection actions.
What should you look for when hiring an attorney to handle your case when a debt collection agency has broken the law and is abusing their position.
What Should You Do?
What should you do when you encounter a debt collector who breaks the law?
The first thing you should do is request that the debt collector stop contacting you, you must do this through a certified letter. You should be aware, though, that asking the debt collector to stop contact can mean that you are left in the dark when it comes to what is happening with your account.
If you have an attorney retained, it is best to speak directly with your attorney about a plan of action based on your circumstances. It is also best to have your attorney serve as an intermediary between you and the debt collection agency.
The second thing you should always do is to keep a record of illegal behavior by the collector so that you have proof of their misconduct. At the very least, you want a second person present when you talk to the collector so that you have a witness to the situation, but it is best to record the conversation. Be aware, though, that in some states it is ILLEGAL to record a phone conversation without the other parties knowledge, so make sure that you are familiar with the law in your state before making any recordings or you could end up on the wrong side of the law yourself!
If you are unsure whether or not a debt collection agent has broken the law with their debt collection techniques, consult your attorney or your state consumer protection agency to ensure that you properly understand local laws in your state.
Do You Have Questions About Debt Collector Abuse?
If you live in Florida and have questions about debt collector abuse and are seeking legal representation, Weidner Law can help! To find out how we can help you give us a call today at 727-954-8752.