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How the law protects people against collector harassment

If you owe money for things like credit card bills, student loans or medical bills that you haven't been able to pay, your creditors may have turned your account over to a debt collection company. You may feel inundated and even harassed in calls, texts, emails and/or letters by collectors.

In fact, third-party debt collectors have to operate under the terms of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This federal law was designed to restrict the manner in which collectors can interact with debtors. If they fail to abide by the law, debtors have the right to sue the collection company and even individual collectors.

It's important to note that the FDCPA doesn't apply to first-party collectors. For example, if you owe money to a hospital, they don't have to abide by this law. However, it's important to make sure you know who is contacting you. A third-party collector may imply that they're calling from the business that's owed the money.

What kind of practices does the FDCPA address?

It limits the hours of the day that collectors can make calls. For example, they can't call prior to 8:00 a.m. or past 9:00 p.m. unless the debtor has stated that they agree to that.

Debt collectors are allowed to call people at their place of work unless the debtor tells them not to. You can also request that they not call you at home. It's wise to put these requests in writing and to use a mailing method that gives you proof that your notification has been received.

If a collection agency doesn't have current contact information for someone, they are allowed to contact family, friends and others whom they believe might have that information. However, they are not allowed to mention that they're calling about a debt. Further, they can't call any individual more than once to get someone else's information.

Collectors can't use abusive or obscene language. They can't lie or threaten people with physical harm or arrest.

While it may not seem like it sometimes, no matter how much money you owe, you have rights. If you believe that one or more collectors is acting illegally or if you'd like to deal with this debt and get these collectors out of your life, an experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance.

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