Debtors Defense

Creditors have rights, but so do you.

Creditors and Debt Collectors do have a right to contact debtors in an attempt to collect legitimate financial obligations. BUT, The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) requires that debt collectors treat you fairly and prohibits unfair and deceptive methods of debt collection.

Most of us claim the “debtor” moniker because today, unfortunately, credit and credit reporting make the world go round. Don’t believe me? Try renting a car from a reputable agency without a credit card, or rent an apartment with a poor credit rating. You just can’t pay cash for everything anymore despite what some financial gurus tell you. Basically you are a “debtor” if you are obligated to pay car, mortgage, educational, or personal loans (including payday or title loans), or if you owe on revolving accounts such as credit cards or other types of “buy now-pay later” debt. A “creditor” is the person or entity to whom you owe the debt, and a “debt collector” is a person or entity who regularly collects a debt owed to others. You may be contacted by a debt collector if you, a friend, a neighbor, or relative fall behind in repaying a creditor or fall victim to identity theft or account errors.

1. What debts are covered under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act? If your debt originated from a loan used for personal, family, and household purposes you are a “consumer” and debt collectors on this kind of debt must follow the FDCPA.

2. Who is a debt collector? A debt collector is any person or entity who regularly collects debts owed to others. This includes attorneys or debt buyers who collect debts on a regular basis.

3. How may a debt collector contact me? A collector MAY contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or fax, Sunday through Saturday. However, a debt collector may not contact you at inconvenient times or places such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree. A debt collector may not contact you at work if the collector knows your employer disallows such contacts.

4. Can I stop a debt collector from contacting me? YES! You can stop a debt collector from contacting you by writing a letter telling them to stop. Once the collector receives your letter, they may NOT contact you again except to say there will be no further contact, or to notify you that the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action (provided it’s an action they can legally take). However, sending such a letter to a collector DOES NOT MAKE THE DEBT GO AWAY if you actually owe it. You can still be sued by the debt collector, debt buyer, or the original creditor.

5. May a debt collector contact anyone else about my debt? If you retained an attorney the debt collector MUST contact the attorney directly rather than you. If you do not have an attorney a collector may contact other people, but only to find out where you live, what your phone number is, and where you work. Collectors usually are prohibited from contacting such third parties more than once. In most cases, the collector MAY NOT tell anyone other than you or your attorney that you owe money.

6. What must the debt collector tell me about the debt? Within five days after you are first contacted, the collector MUST SEND you a written notice telling you the amount of money you owe; the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money; and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money.

7. May a debt collector continue to contact me if I don’t believe I owe the money? A collector MAY NOT contact you if within 30 days after you receive the written notice, you send the collector a letter stating that you do not owe money. This is called “disputing” and you MUST DO IT! However, a collector can renew collection activities if you are sent proof of the debt such as a copy of a bill for the amount owed, or you don’t dispute it.

8. What types of debt collection practices are prohibited? HARASSMENT. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any third parties they contact. Debt collectors MAY NOT:
a) use threats of violence or harm; publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau); use obscene or profane language; repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone.
b) use false or misleading statements; falsely imply that they are attorneys or government representatives; falsely imply that you have committed a crime; falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit bureau; misrepresent the amount of your debt; indicate that papers being sent to you are legal forms when they are not, or indicate that papers being sent to you are not legal forms when they are.
c) state that you will be arrested if you do not pay the debt; state that they will seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless the collection agency or creditor actually intends to do so; take actions such as filing a lawsuit against you when such actions may not be legally taken.
d) give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit bureau; send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency when it is not; use a false name.
e) engage is unfair practices when collecting such as attempting to collect any amount greater than your debt unless state law permits it; deposit a post-dated check prematurely; use deception to make you accept collect calls or pay for telegrams; contact you by postcard.

9. What control do I have over payment of debts? If you owe more than one debt, any payment you make must be applied to the debt you indicate. A debt collector MAY NOT apply a payment to any debt you believe you do not owe.

10. What can I do if I believe a debt collector violated the law? You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win you may recover money for the damages you actually suffered plus an additional amount up to $1,000 as statutory damages. Court costs and attorney’ s fees can also be recovered. Actual damages require that you be able to prove that the illegal debt collection activity caused you some financial loss or real emotional damage.

11. Where can I report a debt collector for an alleged violation? Report any problems you have with a debt collector to the Florida Office of Financial Regulation and the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has a convenient online form. (See our links)

(850) 277-0777 3430 Hwy 77, Suites B, Panama City, FL 32405