The vast majority of Americans hold some sort of debt, and a significant portion of them struggle to pay off those debts. So if you’re facing financial woes and are haunted by debt collectors, then know that you’re not alone. We know that dealing with creditors and debt collectors can be enormously stressful, even to the point that they affect your enjoyment of life and time with your family. This is unacceptable, which is why the federal government has implemented a number of protections to protect you from unfair and harassing debt collection practices.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The law is very clear as to the purpose of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. According to one of the earlier provisions of the law, there is ample evidence demonstrating that abusive debt collection practices occur throughout the United States and that those practices result in more bankruptcies, job losses, and even divorces. This federal Act, then, seeks to curtail those abusive practices while at the same time ensuring that debt collectors who act fairly are not put at a disadvantage in their field.
The laws protections from misrepresentation
One major aspect of the law is that it protects consumers from false and misleading representations. Debt collectors make these types of claims all the time in hopes of recovering debt more fully and more quickly. For example, a debt collector may falsely claim that he is an attorney who will sue you if you don’t pay your debt. This type of representation is illegal and violates your consumer rights. Each of the following are protected under this portion of the law, too:
- False and misleading statements about the amount or the nature of the debt owed
- Representations that failure to pay a debt will result in arrest or imprisonment
- Statements that nonpayment of a debt will result in garnishment or the seizure of property when the debt collector hasn’t taken legal action to do so and does not intend to take such legal action
- Threatening to communicate or actually communicating false credit information about the consumer
- Accusing or implying that the consumer has committed a criminal act for the sole purpose of trying to shame the consumer into paying a debt
These are just a handful of the federal protections pertaining to false and misleading statements, so if you think that you’re being subjected to any of these abusive practices, then now may be the time to discuss them with your attorney.
What you have to gain by taking legal action
It can seem like a headache to take legal action against an aggressive debt collector, but doing so can have its advantages. To begin, it can stop the harassing and abusive practices, thereby giving you some peace of mind. Legal action can also lead to the recovery of damages. Under the federal law, you can recover your actual damages as well as an additional $1,000.
Your actual damages might be quite extensive, which is why you’ll want to build the most compelling case possible before moving forward. In these kinds of cases, the court will consider a number of factors when it tries to determine how much compensation should be awarded to you, including the frequency with which the debt collector violated the law, whether those illegal debt collection practices were intentional, and the severity of the actions. Intent is critical, as a debt collector may be able to escape liability if it can show that it’s violations of the law were accidental.
Get the help you need to protect your rights as a consumer
A lot of people don’t know or don’t understand their rights as a consumer. But the protections afforded to you are pretty broad. Therefore, if you think that you’ve been wronged by a debt collector, then you may want to speak with an attorney who is familiar with this area of the law and can aggressively advocate on your behalf.