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Debt Collection Practices

April 27, 2012

Although we do see some hopeful signs, we are still dealing with a struggling economy. Many people still find that they are facing a mountain of debt and are unsure the steps to take when confronted with collection efforts. Bankruptcy laws can be confusing and it may take some people a significant amount of time to gather the filing fee.

If you are continually receiving delinquency notices and debt collectors are always calling, here are some basic facts and some tips to help navigate through this tough time.

The FDCPA
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (often called the "FDCPA") gives you specific legal rights when dealing with debt collectors.  It allows you to sue debt collectors who unlawfully threaten, berate, intimidate or harass you; call you during odd hours, make false representations about the debt or their intentions, or otherwise act in ways proscribed by the act.

One example of conduct that is illegal under the FDCPA is a debt collector contacting your place of employment in an attempt to collect the debt. A debt collector cannot communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt at the consumer's place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer's employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication. Bottom line is that no employer enjoys the thought of paying you to sit there and take calls about your overdue debts all day, so this type of action is clearly prohibited.

The FDCPA requires that within five days after the initial communication with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt, a debt collector shall (unless already provided in the initial contact), send the consumer a written notice containing - (1) the amount of the debt; (2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed; (3) a statement that unless the consumer, within 30 days after receipt of the notice, disputes the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector; and (4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the 30-day period that the debt is disputed, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt. This basically means that if you don’t remember this debt, you have the right to ask what it’s about and get answers to those questions.

HELPFUL TIPS

"Hello, I am _________(name of collector). I am (or this office is) a debt collector representing____________(name of the creditor).  Information obtained during the course of this call will be used for the purpose of collecting the debt."

If the creditor has not been advising you as above, you may have a right to sue.  Any letter you receive from a debt collector must have the same type of information as well.

If you need a lawyer, you can call the Allegheny County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 412-261-5555 or you can visit PittsburghLawyerFinder.org, the association’s new, free online service.

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