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When Are Debt Collectors Breaking the Law?

What can debt collectors not say to consumers?Last year, the New York Times posted an interesting article on Russian debt collectors titled “Russian Debt Collectors Adopt Mob Tactics as Russians Struggle to Pay Bills.” The article discussed some of the ways these collectors pursued debts, such as assaulting debtors or even firebombing their homes. Russian debtors were also tied up in their homes or threatened with violence over the phone.

After looking back on the details of the New York Times article, it makes one thankful that we live United States. In our country, debt collectors must follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which dictates what collectors can and cannot do while collecting consumer debts (mortgages, credit cards, medical debts). Under the FDCPA, debt collectors cannot:

  • Threaten you with violence or arrest. Debt collectors cannot threaten to cause you physical harm. In fact, a debt collector who does threaten you with violence is violating more laws than just the FDCPA. Debt collectors also cannot threaten to have you arrested for nonpayment.
  • Misrepresent themselves or the debts. Some debt collectors may try to pass themselves off as law enforcement or attorneys. Such an act is illegal under the FDCPA and other laws. In addition, debt collectors cannot lie about what debts are for or the amount owed.
  • Use abusive language: Debt collectors are forbidden from using abusive or profane language.
  • Contact you if you are being represented by an attorney. Debt collectors must cease contact once you have hired an attorney to work on your behalf. Instead, all communication must go through the attorney.

What Else Should I Know About Debt Collection in Texas?

These are only a few examples of what the FDCPA covers for consumer debts. The law goes into much more detail on the protections it offers. If a debt collector is breaking the law, then you can file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Depending on the circumstances, your attorney could also take legal action.

Many debt collectors do follow the law. They may seek judgments to garnish your wages or seize the funds in your bank account. Under Texas law, there are exceptions to these rules for medical debts.

Filing for bankruptcy can also stop debt collectors. After filing for bankruptcy, an automatic stay temporarily halts also collection attempts. Lewisville bankruptcy attorney David Shuster can help North Texans discover possible options for debt relief.