Consumer debt can offer you the ability to establish a credit history that becomes the basis for qualifying for a mortgage or auto loan. Failing to manage your debt can cause lasting damage to your creditworthiness, however, and result in debt collector harassment in order for you to pay those debts. While creditors are entitled to repayment of loans, state and federal laws are designed to protect you from harassment from debt collectors.
The Law Office of William J. Roe is a dedicated consumer protection law firm serving clients in the state of Florida. If you are being hounded by debt collectors, our legal team will help to enforce your rights. We believe that no one should be mistreated or harassed by a debt collector and will move quickly to stop the harassing communications. Depending on the circumstances, you also may be entitled to compensation. When you work with us, you will have peace of mind knowing that we can help put an end to debt collector harassment.
How Can I Stop Debt Collectors from Harassing Me?
The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects borrowers from debt collector harassment and also provides powerful legal remedies. The law prohibits debt collectors from harassing, oppressing, or otherwise abusing a debtor or any anyone else they contact when attempting to collect a debt. Under the FDCPA:
- Debt collectors cannot make repeated phone calls that are intended to annoy, abuse, or harass a debtor or any person answering the phone
- Debt collectors cannot use obscene or profane language
- Threats of violence or other harm are strictly forbidden
- Debt collectors may not publish lists of people who have not paid their debts (this does not include reporting information to a credit reporting agency)
- Calls to a debtors place of work are prohibited if the debtor asks not to be contacted there
In addition, the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from using false, deceptive or misleading practices, which includes making misrepresentations about the debt, such as:
- Failing to disclose status as a debt collector
- Claiming to be an attorney or a credit reporting agency
- Claiming to be a law enforcement agency
- Using documents resembling those of a government agency or court
- Making false threats to have a debtor arrested
The FDCPA also imposes a number of other restrictions on communications by debt collectors and prohibits them from:
- Making calls before 8.a.m. or after 9 p.m
- Contacting a debtor if the collector is aware that the debtor has retained an attorney
- Contacting debtor’s workplace if employer prohibits such communications
- Contacting, or threatening to contact, third parties such as relatives, neighbors or employers without the debtor’s permission
- Contacting the debtor after the collector has been notified in writing to cease communication
- In mail communications, using a postcard or placing information on an envelope clearly indicating the source is a debt collector
Finally, a debt collector must inform the debtor during the initial contact of his or her right to dispute the debt. This is sometimes referred to as a “mini-Miranda” in relation to the “Miranda Rights” law enforcement officers are required to give criminal suspects. A debtor must also be provided with the following disclosures:
- The name of the creditor
- The amount of the alleged debt
- Your right to request verification of that debt
- A warning that the debt will be considered valid if it is not disputed within 30 days
This information must be provided either over the phone during the first contact, or in writing within five days of that first contact. If a debtor disputes the debt, he or she must do so in writing, within 30 days that first contact. Upon receipt of that request, the collection agency must cease all letters and phone calls until the debt has been verified. If the agency cannot verify the debt, collection on the account must cease. Even if a debt is verified, however, a debtor can put an end to incessant calls, harassment, or abuse with a “cease communication” letter, demand that all contact cease, or that any further communication should be in writing.
Remedies Under the FDCPA
If you are being harassed by a debt collector, the FDCPA provides you with a number of legal remedies, including filing a lawsuit in federal court. If your claim prevails, you may be awarded statutory damages of up to $1,000. Additionally, you may also be able to obtain compensation for any physical distress and or emotional harm you may have suffered as a result of harassment by the debt collector.
Florida’s Debt Collection Law
Florida law provides additional protection to borrowers. The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) applies to both debt collectors and original creditors and prohibits these entities from engaging in abusive, harassing, unfair, fraudulent, deceptive or misleading practices. If a creditor or debt collector violates the FCCPA and causes you harm, you have a right to file a lawsuit in state court. You may be awarded statutory damages not to exceed $1,000, compensation for emotional harm, punitive damages (if the debt collector’s conduct was egregious, such as threatening to use violence), as well as attorneys fees and court costs.
Additional Legal Protections Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a federal law that also protects consumers from telemarketer and debt collector harassment, specifically prohibits debt collectors from making automated phone calls or using auto-dialers, commonly referred to as “robocalls.” Common indicators of robocalls include pre-recorded greetings and long pauses before someone comes on the phone. A robocall is only legal if you have given permission to receive such calls. If a debt collector (or telemarketer) violates the TCPA, you may be entitled to damages of up to $500 per call.
What To Do When a Debt Collector Contacts You
If a debt collector contacts you, it is crucial to keep all communications, letters, legal documents, and voicemails that are sent to you. You should also verify the person contacting you is actually a debt collector and confirm that the debt is legitimate. Also, keep copies of anything you send to a debt collector, and write down the dates and times of conversations as well as notes about anything that was discussed. This information will help support your claim.
Contact Our Florida Debt Collector Harassment Attorney
If you are unable to pay your debts and are being subjected to aggressive collection activities, it is important to know your rights. That’s the time to call the Law Office of William J. Roe. We will intervene with the debt collector on your behalf and end the harassing calls. We may also recommend filing a lawsuit in State or Federal Court, depending on the circumstances. The FDCPA, the FCCPA, and the TCPA also allow you to recover attorneys’ fees and costs. Every case is handled on a case by case basis, but The Law Office of William J. Roe can actually take your case whereby you do not pay us directly. Generally, we will not get paid unless the case is settled or we win at trial. The opposing party would pay your attorney’s fees. Essentially, it would be nothing out of your pocket to file, and if the lawyer loses -which is always a possibility- we will not send you a bill. Don’t delay — contact our office for a free consultation today.