Collection agencies are held to strict federal standards when they try to collect a debt. Unfortunately, they often lapse into harassing or even abusive behavior. This can cause a debtor intense emotional distress, particularly if multiple collection agencies are harassing him or her. If you are suffering under an onslaught of abuse by collection agencies and considering bankruptcy, an experienced South-Central Alabama attorney at Grainger Legal Services may be able to guide you through this process. We can counsel you on whether violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act may have occurred.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) limits how debt collectors for personal, household, and family debts collect their debts. Debt collectors include any person or entity that regularly collects these types of debts. Under FDCPA § 1692d(5), whether or not harassment is actionable depends on how many calls are made and their pattern, regardless of what their messages are. A high number of calls is not a violation of the FDCPA. However, a pattern of calls that shows an intent to annoy, abuse, or harass a debtor is considered collection abuse.
In general, debt collectors cannot call you between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m., and if they know you cannot receive calls at your workplace, they cannot call you there either. In general, if you write and send a letter to the debt collector telling it to stop, the debt collector is no longer allowed to call you except to advise that it plans to sue you or take another legal action. The debt collector may then file a lawsuit against you, however.
If you do not hire an attorney to represent you, a debt collector is allowed to call other people to try to locate you. They cannot usually call your friends and family repetitively, and they cannot tell anyone other than you and your lawyer that you owe money or how much is owed. If you request it, the debt collector has to send you a written notice, what to do if you do not believe you owe the money, the name of the creditor, and the amount of money owed.
If you send the debt collector a letter denying a debt within 30 days of the written notice, a debt collector is not allowed to call you until it has sent you proof of the debt. The proof could be a copy of a bill for the amount owed. A collector cannot use threats of violence or harm, repeatedly call to annoy you, or lie or mislead you. Lies or misleading behavior include the suggestion that you have committed a crime, overstating the amount of your debt, or threatening to garnish your wages unless they already have a judgment against you. Unfair practices, such as depositing a post-dated check prematurely or tricking you into paying for a communication, are also prohibited.
In many cases, violations of a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act will stop completely once you have obtained the automatic stay available when you file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
An experienced bankruptcy lawyer can counsel individuals who are encountering collections abuse in Alabama on how to address violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side can potentially alleviate creditor harassment. Grainger Legal Services has offices in Montgomery, Prattville, and Troy. Call us at (334) 260-0500 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.