If you are receiving debt collection phone calls, it is important that you understand your rights, as well as what debt collection agencies are not allowed to do according to debt collection laws. Our goal with this article is to help you understand the top 7 deceptive and abusive debt collection practices that are illegal according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Knowing your rights under debt collection laws is integral to your protection as both a debtor and a consumer. If you have questions about debt collection or think that a debt collection agency or debt buyer may be breaking the law, the Law Offices of B. David Sisson provides free consultations.
Profane and Obscene Language Cannot Be Used
According to the debt collection laws, debt buyers, debt collection agencies, and the original creditor cannot call you to collect on the debt and use abusive language of any kind. In addition to what we all know to be profane and obscene language, they also may not yell or scream at you.
Debt buyers, debt collectors, and even some original creditors often enjoy trying to scare debtors with unenforceable threats. These threats often include having you arrested, seizing your home, garnishing your wages, or suing you. Even if you do owe the debt, you cannot be arrested and your home cannot be seized.
While an original creditor, debt buyer, or debt collection agency can file a lawsuit or eventually garnish your wages, they cannot make threats to do those things unless they plan to actually do so. To garnish wages, they must first file a lawsuit and get a judgment that allows them to do so. Once more: unenforceable threats are illegal.
Phone Harassment by Debt Collection Agencies
Many debt buyers and debt collection agencies use autodialers to continually harass those they believe owe the debts. The use of autodialers for this purpose is banned by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). If they constantly call you until you pick up the phone to make it stop ringing, they are violating the law. So, how do you know that this is happening to you and that it just isn't a span of bad luck? If your voicemail receives pre-recorded messages of robotic voices or other generic messages, it is likely an autodialer. If you answer your phone and no one is there or it seems to take several seconds before someone else finally answers, that is another sign that the debt collector is using an autodialer and could be violating federal debt collection laws.
Before an autodialer may be used to contact you as a debtor, you must provide written consent according to the FCC. However, you also have the right to revoke that authorization.
Calling You When They Shouldn't
Collection efforts can only take place during certain days and hours according to federal debt collection laws. You can only be contacted Monday through Saturday during the hours of 8:00 am and 9:00 pm in your time zone. It does not matter if the debt collection agency is two or three (or more) hours behind you. On Sunday, debt collection agencies may only call between the hours of 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm in your time zone. They cannot call you at any other time.
They also cannot call you at work if it is against your workplace's policy for you to receive personal calls.
Debt collectors will often try to get around this by stating it is a "business" matter. It is not a business matter. If you owe the debt, it is still a personal matter.
This is just another deceptive practice that debt collection agencies and debt buyers often use.
Talking About Your Debts With Others
Debt collectors have a very limited list of people with whom they can discuss the debt you owe. They can talk to you, your spouse, and your attorney. They cannot talk to anyone else about the credit card debt, medical debt, or another debt that is in collections. What they can do is talk to your employer to verify that it is your place of work. They can talk to people who know you, such as your friends and family, to verify your phone number and your address. However, they cannot badger your employer and they cannot badger your family or friends. Generally, the debt collector can only contact each person only one time. They also cannot contact your employer and tell them that they plan to garnish your wages. If they do, they have violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Debt Collectors Cannot Hide Their Identity
One common deceptive practice of debt collectors is to try and hide their identity. They may try to scare you by pretending to be an attorney or police officer. If they do this, they are breaking the law. Debt collectors must identify themselves. They must give you their name as well as the purpose of their call. Remember, they are not allowed to use false threats and they are not allowed to hide their identity.
Continuing to Contact You After You've Told Them to Stop
If you tell a debt collector in writing to stop contacting you, they must not contact you again. This does not stop a debt collector from taking legal action against you. They can still contact your attorney if you owe the debt, but they can no longer contact you. If the debt collection agency continues to contact you after you send the written notice to cease contact, they are breaking the law.
What Should You Do About Abusive or Deceptive Practices?
So, what should you do if this happens to you? In Oklahoma, if a debt collection agency or debt buyer uses deceptive practices against you, you do have some options.
Hang up right away. You are under no obligation to continue to expose yourself to their behavior. Remember that their behavior is illegal according to federal debt collection laws.
Contact the management of the debt collection agency by writing them a letter that contains the dates and times, as well as the name of the debt collector, which violated the law. Make sure that you also keep a copy of the letter. The letter should be sent via certified mail with a return receipt requested.
In Oklahoma, you have the right to record your phone calls. We are a one-party consent state. If you are able to record the violation, you will have evidence that the federal Fair Debt Collections Act is being violated.
You can report the debt collector, debt buyer, or original creditor (whomever it is that used this deceptive practice) to the Attorney General and the FTC.
You have the right to request verification of the debt that the debt collection agency alleges that you owe. If they are unable to provide that verification, they must remove the debt from your credit report.
Get Help with Debt Collectors in Oklahoma
If you need help with debt collection agencies in Oklahoma, the Law Offices of B. David Sisson provides free consultations. Debt collectors are not entitled to violate debt collection laws. To learn more about how we may be able to help, schedule your free consultation.