Fair Debt Collections Practices Act – TIPS
If it’s happened to you, you’re not alone: job loss, unexpected expenses or other issues can leave you with less-than stellar credit. But, bad credit can hold you back in a myriad of ways. It can destroy home purchase dreams, keep you from getting the job you want and cost you more when you apply for everything from cell phone contracts to credit cards.
It can take some time and involve a few headaches, but, credit repair can restore all of those lost opportunities.
As you embark on your credit repair mission, it is important to know your rights when dealing with creditors. There are a number of things that, by law, they can and cannot do. Prohibitied actions include:
- Calling outside the hours of 8am to 9pm. Creditors who call earlier or later are breaking the law.
- Publishing your name or address on a “bad debt” list.
- Contacting you at your place of work after you have asked them not to.
- Contacting you after you have sent a written request to cease communication.
- Talking about your debts to a third party.
- Using abusive or profane language.
- Seeking unjustified amounts. This includes adding unreasonable fees and penalties to your debt.
- Reporting false information on your credit record.
- Threatening you with imprisonment for your debt.
There are also certain things that creditors must do when attempting to collect a debt:
- They must identify themselves during all communications. It’s illegal for them to, for instance, pretend to be someone else so that you will talk to them on the phone.
- They must give you written verification of a debt when you request it in writing.
- They must notify you of your right to dispute a debt. This gives you the power to fight back if they are trying to hold you responsible for a debt that is not yours.
Dealing with a harrassing creditor? Take the following steps:
- Keep records of everything. Write down when they contact you by phone and keep every item that they mail.
- Communicate in writing. When sending a request that they stop calling your job or sending repeated communications to your home this can help ensure that you have a verifiable paper trail.
- File a complaint with your state Attorney General’s office and the FTC. Your state may have its own debt collection laws that give you extra protection. The Attorney General can help you determine whether a creditor has violated state law.
- If harrassment persists, you may be entitled to sue the creditor within a year of the violation. You do not have to have provable losses; the judge can order the creditor to pay you up to $1,000, plus any verifiable medical or wage losses that occur as a result of the harrassing practices.
Knowing your rights under the law can save you a lot of the stress associated with dealing with unreasonable or unethical creditors. Protect yourself as you work toward your goals and improve your financial outlook.
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