Have you ever been afraid to answer the phone because it might be a bill collector? Has someone tried to contact you at work about an overdue bill? Have you ever had a conversation with a collection agency that left you wondering, “Can they really do that?” If so, learning more about the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act may help you.
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act is a law that outlines your right to dispute overdue bills placed with collection agencies. In addition, the law outlines what practices a collection agency can and cannot use when attempting to collect a debt. And finally, it outlines the penalties for collectors who violate the law.
Who does it apply to?
The first thing to know about the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act is which creditors are governed by the law. Those are:
Even though original creditors (the first business you owed money too) are not covered under this law, there are many states that have adopted laws similar to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, which do apply to those creditors.
How does a debt collector notify me?
The second thing to know about the Act is what information collection agencies are required to provide to you. When a collection agency contacts you, they must tell you how much you owe and the name of the creditor for whom they are collecting. They must also provide you with a disclosure that states you have 30 days to dispute the validity of the debt, and that they will send you proof of the debt if you request it. Under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, all of this must be in writing.
A collection agency may contact you and tell you this information verbally, but it does not absolve them of the responsibility to provide your rights in writing. Of course, if they do not have your current address they will not be able to send you the information. In this situation, they are only required to send notice to your last known (to them) address.
What are some of my protections?
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act also stops debt collectors from using unfair, abusive, or deceptive practices to collect overdue bills. Some of these practices include:
How Do I Report a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Violation?
First, when you communicate with a collection agency, try to keep track of the date, time, and name of the person you were talking with. Also, make a note of what occurred during the call. Try to write down exactly what the collector said.
Report violations of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act to the Federal Trade Commission and the Attorney General’s office in your state. You will want to provide them with as much information as possible. Include your notes and any proof you may have, such as documents they sent you, tape recordings (if legal in your area), and contact information for any witnesses who may have overheard your conversations.
What can I do about my debts?
If you are having trouble making your debt payments, there are options that may help you. Take some time to tour our website and learn about the ways you may be able to take control of your finances. In addition, contact a certified credit counselor at American Financial Solutions. They can help you evaluate ways to reduce your debt and your stress level. You can contact them by clicking the Get Started Now button or calling the number at the top of your screen.