Dealing with Debt Collectors. collection activity has certainly increased tremendously with the downturn of the

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1 Dealing with Debt Collectors The debt collection industry has grown immensely in the United States, and debt collection activity has certainly increased tremendously with the downturn of the American economy. For example, American businesses placed $150 billion of debt with debt collectors in 2010 that collected approximately $40 billion of that debt. There are about 4,100 debt collection agencies in the U.S. employing 450,000 people. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates that between now and 2106, the debt collection industry will experience a 23% rate of growth, a much faster rate than the average for all industries. According to the BLS, much of the increased demand for debt collection services will come from doctors offices, hospitals and government agencies, including the IRS. What this means is that hosts of average Americans will most likely be contacted by a debt collector for some type of debtor debt. Yet, while there may be a debt owed, debt collectors are restrained in what they can and cannot do by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (15 U.S.C et seq.), commonly referred to as the FDCPA. What is a Debt Collector? The FDCPA defines a debt collector as "any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another." 15 U.S.C. 1692a. Thus, under the FDCPA any business entity that attempts to collect a debt owed to another entity is considered a debt collector, and therefore, is subject to the limitations of the FDCPA.

2 What is a Debt Under the FDCPA? The FDCPA restricts the coverage of the Act to personal, family, or household transactions. As a result, the Act does not cover debts incurred for business purposes. What Do Debt Collectors Have to Do Under the FDCPA? First, debt collectors must identify themselves and notify the debtor, in every communication, that the communication is from a debt collector, and in the initial communication that any information obtained will be used to effect collection of the debt. 15 U.S.C. 1692a(11). So, if a debt collector fails to identify itself as a debt collector, it has violated the Act. And, if the debt collector fails to inform the debtor in the first communication that any information obtained will be used to collect the debt, it has also violated the Act. Second, debt collectors must give the name and address of the original creditor (e.g., a credit card company) upon the debtor's written request made within 30 days of receipt of the notice above. What this means is that if a debt collector contacts you, you have the right to demand that the debt collector give you the name and address of the original creditor from whom it has obtained the debt or for whom it is attempting to collect the debt. But, you must do so within 30 days of the first contact by the debt collector. If the debt collector fails to do so, it has violated the Act. Third, debt collectors must notify debtors of their right to dispute the debt, in part or in full, with the debt collector. If they fail to do so, they have violated the Act. Fourth, debt collectors must provide verification of the debt if a debtor sends a written dispute or request for verification within 30 days of receiving the 1692g notice, then the debt collector must either mail the debtor the requested verification information

3 or cease collection efforts altogether. The creditor must also report to any credit bureau that reports the debt such asserted disputes. 15 U.S.C. 1692(g)(a)4. If the debt collector fails to provide verification of the debt or fails to report a disputed debt to the credit bureaus, it has violated the Act. Fifth, if a debt collector chooses to file suit on the debt, it must do so in a venue where the debtor lives or where the debtor signed the contract. 15 U.S.C. 1692(i). If a debt collector files suit in any other venue, it has violated the Act. What Can Debt Collectors Not Do Under the FDCPA? Debt collectors cannot: 1. Contact debtors by telephone before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. local time. 2. Fail to cease communication upon request. Communicating with debtors in any way (other than litigation) after receiving written notice that the debtor wishes no further communication or refuses to pay the alleged debt, with certain exceptions, including advising that collection efforts are being terminated or that the collector intends to file a lawsuit or pursue other remedies where permitted is a violation of the Act. 15 U.S.C. 1692c(c). 3. Cause a telephone to ring or engage any debtor in a telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass the debtor. 15 U.S.C. 1692d. 4. Communicate with debtors at their place of employment after having been advised that this is unacceptable or prohibited by the employer. 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a)(3).

4 5. Contact a debtor known to be represented by an attorney. 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a)(2). 6. Communicate with a debtor after request for validation has been made. Communicating with the debtor or the pursuit of collection efforts by the debt collector after receipt of a debtor s written request for verification of a debt made within the 30 day validation period (or for the name and address of the original creditor on a debt) and before the debt collector mails the debtor the requested verification or original creditor's name and address. 15 U.S.C. 1692g(b). 7. Misrepresent the debt or use deception to collect the debt, including a debt collector's misrepresentation that he or she is an attorney or law enforcement officer. 15 U.S.C. 1692e. 8. Publish the debtor s name or address on a "bad debt" list. 15 U.S.C. 1692(d). 9. Seek unjustified amounts, which would include demanding any amounts not permitted under an applicable contract or as provided under applicable law, for example attempting to collect interest when the debt collector has not bought the contract with the debtor, but rather, has only purchased the receivable. 10. Threaten arrest or legal action that is either not permitted or not actually contemplated. For example, a debt collector cannot threaten to have you arrested when you have not broken any law or threaten to sue you when it has no intention of doing so. 11. Use abusive or profane language in the course of communication related to the debt. 12. Communicate with third parties revealing or discussing the nature of debts

5 (other than the debtor s spouse or attorney). Collection agencies are allowed to contact neighbors or co-workers but only to obtain location information. Disreputable agencies often harass debtors with a "block party" or "office party" where they contact multiple neighbors or co-workers telling them they need to reach the debtor on an urgent matter. 13. Contact by embarrassing media, such as communicating with a consumer regarding a debt by post card, or using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails or by telegram, except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business. 14. Report false information on a consumer's credit report or threaten to do so in the process of collection. So, if a debt collector has subjected you to any of the above behaviors, or if a debt collector fails to do any of the mandatory things, you may be entitled to collect $1,000 in damages against the debt collector. If you think you have experienced violations of the FDCPA by a debt collector, contact us. The initial consultation is always free, and if we take your case, we only collect a fee from the debt collector when we win or settle your case. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE AND LOTS TO GAIN. CALL (502) TODAY.

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