Being in debt can be stressful, overwhelming and traumatic even if you’re trying your best to resolve the problem. But if your situation is being made worse by debt collectors, it’s important to understand your rights. Even though you may owe the money these agencies are trying to collect, debt collectors do not have the right to collect by any means necessary. Many people feel guilty about their debt and believe they deserve whatever actions the debt owner is threatening, but remember that your rights don’t disappear just because you owe money!
There are a few things a debt collector cannot do:
They Cannot Harass You
This means those early morning and late night calls are not allowed. Even calls to you at work are not allowed if you tell them they may not contact you there. You don’t have to pick up when they call you, and you’re not required to answer any of their questions—or even tell them the truth about your financial situation. And you don’t need to let them know when you’re going to hang up on them.
Debt Collectors Cannot Make False or Misleading Statements
The law says that a debt collection agency cannot tell you they are going to sue you if they are not actually planning to. Even if they only imply the possibility of litigation, courts have found that it’s illegal if a “reasonable” understanding of the words make you believe legal action is imminent. Other misleading or false statements that are not allowed include threatening to garnish your wages above what is legal, informing your employer or your neighbors of your debt, reporting a car that is behind on payments as “stolen,” filing criminal charges and threatening prison time and informing government agencies of alien status.
Debt Collectors Cannot Use Unfair Practices
An important thing to know is that collection agencies are not allowed to add any type of fee to the money you owe unless your contract with the original creditor or state law allows it. They also can’t take illegally take your property or cash a post-dated check early.
The laws surrounding debt collection are complicated, but worth knowing, and the federal government has some excellent resources for understanding debt collection. If you are being harassed by creditors, or just want more information about what you can do to make this difficult situation easier, contact us here.