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Are abusive collection agents breaking the law when they call?

Falling behind on payments can happen for all kinds of reasons. Maybe you got hit really badly with this season's flu and ended up missing work well beyond what your paid leave covers. Perhaps you experienced an accident that resulted in massive medical bills, missed work and collections attempts. Sometimes, it's as simple as making too many purchases and no longer having the ability to pay off your line of credit each month.

Making minimum payments or skipping payments altogether can leave you incurring fees, on top of interest, which can leave you in a dangerous spiral. Pretty soon, you have to deal with calls, letters and emails from creditors or worse, third party collection agencies. Some of these companies can employ very aggressive tactics to recover the money they want. Knowing your rights can protect you from abusive and illegal collection methods.

Collection agents can't threaten you or say you've broken the law

Simply getting a collection call is often nerve-wracking. When it involves unscrupulous tactics, such as making threats against you, your livelihood or your family, however, it can be downright terrifying. Federal law prohibits collection agents from making threats or from using profane language as a means of intimidating you in an attempt to collect a debt.

Similarly, while failing to make payments on an amount you owe is generally a violation of your contract with a company, that isn't a criminal offense. However, in the hopes of scaring you, some collection agents will tell you that you could face criminal charges in order to get you to pay as much as you can.

Calling you late at night or at work when you've asked them to stop

In general, debt collectors can only legally call you between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. to prevent abusive behavior like intentionally waking someone up to get him or her to take a call. Sometimes, mistakes happen if a collection agency is in another time zone. However, notifying them of the mistake should prevent future calls during those prohibited hours. Additional calls late at night or early in the morning are a violation of the law.

Many people are at work for the majority of the hours when collectors can call, which may lead them to try to contact you at your place of work. If you inform them, even verbally or in writing, that you cannot receive personal calls at work, they have to stop. Failing to do so is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

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Consumer Justice Center P.A.
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