Collectors are allowed to collect a debt. But, they have to follow the law.
They break these laws all the time. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act are the biggest. Each violation on this list gets you damages and your attorney’s fees paid by the collector. Learn to spot these violations and share!
- Calling your cell phone without permission. I talk at length about this on that page, so if you are getting collection calls to your cell phone, read that article or call. They pay $500 per call if they broke the rules.
- Calling your cell phone after giving them permission, but later taking it away. For example, you originally did business with the company, and you put your cell phone number on the loan application. They later start calling you on your cell phone. These phone calls or legal. However, the first time you tell them to stop calling, all phone calls will be a legal.
- Calling your home phone too much: There is no hard and fast rule about how much a collector can call your home phone line. Does it seem like a lot of calls? If yes, assume they went too far.
- Hanging up without knowing who it is: DC can’t just call and hang up over and over again. This is unfair and is illegal. There is a limit, so there is no hard and fast rule. But, ask yourself this question, does that seem fair?
- Calling before 8 a.m.: They can only call during certain hours under federal law. Depending on what state you live in, you may have even more time of quiet, but not less. These hours are the same in Georgia.
- Calling after 10 a.m.: This is the latest a debt collector can call you. Anytime later and they broke the law. That’s not cool and is a violation of law.
- Leaving a message that is overheard by a third party. You have a right to privacy. You have a right for your private information to stay private. If they are leaving messages on a home phone’s answering machine and your mom hears that they are collecting on you – that is a collector’s violations.
- Calling the home phone after being sent a letter asking to stop calling
- Telling you to pay for a spouse’s debt: This is untrue. In America, you are only responsible for your debts and your children’s debts, but not your spouse’s debts. For example, your husband goes to the emergency room and gets service. They send a bill, but he does not pay it. Can they call my wife? Yes. Can they make her pay the bill she does not owe? No, they can’t.
- Telling you to pay for a grown up child’s debt
Telling you to pay for a parent’s debt: The Georgia law matches the federal law here, as well. You are not responsible for your parent’s debt unless you agreed to that before hand. You have to watch out for this one.
Telling you to pay for a grandchild’s debt: This violation happens a great deal. You are taking care of your grandchild, and the next thing you know you are denied credit. What for? Because a medical debt that is not your bill? That is wrong and illegal.
- Telling you to pay for a stranger’s debt: Of course, they won’t say it like that, but … Credit bureaus are all mixed up at times and make mistakes. What you actually think is identity fraud might just be Equifax mixing you up with another person. It happens all the time. 60% of people have credit report errors in Georgia.
- Telling you pay for a debt that you don’t owe: Debt collectors love to do this.
- Telling you to pay for a debt you do owe, but in the wrong amount. A debt collector will often make this mistake.
- Threatening to garnish your wages: Garnishing wages is when the court takes your paycheck directly from your employer to pay a bill to someone that has a judgment against you. No one can garnish your wages until the sue you and beat you. Any talk before then is wrong and illegal. Debt collectors have paid millions of dollars for this lie they tell over and over. Be on the lookout for talk about garnishing wages. If you are told this by a collector, write down the time and number of who called. After that, call my office for a quick lawsuit for illegal activity.
- Threatening to sue you unless they already were going to (the collection agent won’t know). This one takes some leg work, but they are a collector that regularly sues or does not. I would talk to a lawyer to help you figure this one out. Local finance companies may always sue or never sue. It depends.
- Threatening jail time for not paying: This is illegal for so many reasons. First, you can’t go to jail for not paying a collector – ever!!! Wait, unless it’s the government – they crazy. If a collector ever tells you that you will go to jail, you are talking to a liar. In fact, I don’t think you are talking with a debt collector. You may be talking with a scam artist. Don’t pay without talking with a consumer lawyer. If they are violating this law, they either have no leadership or direction at work, or they are fake.
- Calling your work and telling them you owe money: Wait! They can call UNLESS you tell them they can’t call during work. So, if you tell them they can’t call and they do call, that is illegal. I will get you paid. If you never told them that they can’t call, then they can call looking for you. BUT, they can’t say it is about a debt. The problem is when the company name is like ABC debt collection.
- Telling anyone but your spouse that you owe money.
- Asking anyone but you or your spouse where you are more than once.
- Charge you a convenience fee on your debt collection bill.
- Charge you a service charge on a debt collection bill. This is very similar to the above violation, but they are the one’s keeping all of the money.
- Automatically debit your account for more than one month without having something in writing. This means that every month you can give them permission, but you can’t give them two months of permission at once.
- Sue the wrong person. Law firms and debt collectors sue the wrong person all the time. This is wrong.
- Sue the right person for the wrong amount.
- Sue the right person, but can’t prove they were the right business to sue.
Who are debt collectors?
Debt collectors are people who collect debts owed to others regularly under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA. As a Georgia FDCPA attorney, I have found that many types of businesses violate the law. Debt collectors include lawyers, collection agencies, and the corporations that buy delinquent debts only to try to collect at full value.
Many larger debt collectors are governed by the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau.
Types of debts covered?
The Act however covers both personal, household and family debts, which includes money owed by you through an auto loan, a personal credit card account, your mortgage and your medical bill. The FDCPA does not cover debts incurred by you while running a business.
One last thing, identity theft can also create claims under these laws, as well.