Nobody who works and pays bills should be bullied by debt collectors. If they call you at work or at all hours, or if a debt collector is abusive or dishonest with you, you can take legal steps to stop the abuse, and the right debt collection attorney will help you.
Is a debt collector suing you? Does the debt collector even have a legal right to collect the debt? These kinds of debt and credit conflicts are the last thing a hard-working person needs.
Almost everyone has been harassed by a debt collector. Debt collectors have screamed, threatened, and lied to people. If you’ve been targeted for this sort of abuse, you can make it stop.
When a debt collector calls, know your rights. Federal and state law both offer consumers in Massachusetts protection against abusive debt collectors. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from using abusive or deceptive practices.
WHAT ARE THE PROVISIONS OF THE FDCPA?
To collect a debt, debt collectors can reach you legally with phone calls, text messages, emails, and through the U.S. Postal Service.
However, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors cannot call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. unless they have your consent. And debt collectors can’t call you at work if they’ve been told that you are not allowed to receive personal calls at your workplace.
Massachusetts law also bans deceptive and abusive debt collection practices. The Massachusetts Attorney General has issued debt collection regulations that apply to original creditors, third-party collection agencies, and debt buyers who hire third parties to collect on their behalf.
HOW ARE DEBT COLLECTORS RESTRICTED?
No one has to tolerate harassment. If a debt collector uses abusive language or threatens you on the phone, hang up. Debt collectors may not:
1. make harmful or violent threats
2. use profanity or obscene language
3. make repeated phone calls to aggravate you
4. misrepresent the amount of the debt
5. misrepresent who they are or who they represent
6. falsely claim that legal action is imminent
Additionally, under the FDCPA, debt collectors who are seeking information about a borrower from a third party must identify who they are and explain why they are seeking the information. Third parties may be contacted no more than once unless the details they provide are inaccurate.
When a debt collector is told that a borrower is being represented by a debt collection attorney, the collector may communicate only with the attorney from that point forward.
If your lawyer tells a debt collector to refrain from contacting you, contact must entirely cease, and almost no exceptions are allowed.
IS ALL DEBT COLLECTION REGULATED BY THE FDCPA?
Unlike the state regulations in Massachusetts, the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act governs only debt collectors and agencies. The FDCPA does not restrict an original creditor collecting its own debt, unless that creditor is operating under another name to collect the debt.
HOW SHOULD YOU HANDLE AN ABUSIVE DEBT COLLECTOR?
Not everyone who’s harassed by a debt collector will need an attorney’s services. Your first step is sending the debt collector a letter asking for the harassment to stop. Use polite but firm language, make a copy of the letter, and ask the U.S. Postal Service for a return receipt.
In some cases, this will be enough to end the harassment. Upon receiving your letter, a debt collector must confirm that it will stop contacting you, or it must inform you of a specific collection action such as a lawsuit.
Even if you don’t owe the debt – or can’t pay it – you should speak at least once with the debt collector to verify that it is in fact your debt being collected and not, for example, a debt that belongs to someone else with the same name or who once lived at the same address.
If you speak directly with a debt collector, learn as much about the debt as possible, but do not divulge any of your own personal or financial details.
A debt collector who violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act may be sued for damages, but if you sue a debt collector and prevail, any damages you acquire will hinge on the extent and nature of the debt collector’s violation.
WHAT IF A DEBT COLLECTOR SUES YOU?
If a debt collector sues you to collect a debt, let a Plymouth debt collection attorney advise and represent you.
The right attorney will fight for an outcome that you can live with – often by having the lawsuit dismissed or by negotiating a payment plan you can afford – a plan that won’t wreck your finances or destroy your future.
However – and this is vital – the most important thing about a debt collection lawsuit is that you cannot ignore it. If you ignore a debt collection lawsuit, the debt collector may receive a “default” judgment and automatically win the lawsuit.
WHAT DOES A DEFAULT JUDGMENT ALLOW?
If that happens, the debt collector can freeze your bank accounts, place a lien on your home, or garnish your wages. A debt collection attorney can fight a wage garnishment on your behalf, but it’s better to negotiate a debt collection lawsuit and avoid a default judgment entirely.
Debt collection lawsuit trials are rare in Massachusetts. When a defendant is represented by a good debt collection attorney, a debt collection lawsuit is usually dismissed or settled out-of-court for a small fraction of the original debt amount.
How a debt collection lawsuit is resolved will depend – among other things – on who is filing the lawsuit, who their attorneys are, and how much documentation they can present about the debt.
CAN YOU AFFORD THE LEGAL HELP YOU NEED?
A debt collection attorney’s services may cost less than you imagine, and in some cases, it may cost you nothing at all. Some of the consumer protection statues transfer legal fees and compel the other side to pay your attorney’s fees if you prevail in a credit or debt dispute.
Credit and debt conflicts are more than simple inconveniences. They’re genuine, pressing problems that sometimes seem overwhelming. No one wants a lawsuit or a wage garnishment.
If you are being harassed over the phone, if you are being sued for a debt, or if your wages are being garnished, put the matter in a good attorney’s hands. The right debt collection lawyer will find a way to tackle your debt or credit problem successfully – and give you some peace of mind.