By: Robert J. Nahoum
Tell me if any of this sounds familiar, the dishes are done, the kids have gone to sleep, you and your spouse are sitting around the kitchen table staring at pile of bills and the family finances trying to figure out if there is anything left to cut. The credit cards are maxed, your job doesn’t give you dental insurance and your oldest kid has a cavity. Your house is under water, your behind in your mortgage and your boss just cut back your hours. Then the phone rings – it’s the debt collector calling for the fifth time today.
DEBT COLLECTOR – “is this john smith?”
YOU – “yes”
DEBT COLLECTOR – “Federal law requires that we inform you that this call is from a debt collector, this is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained may be used for that purpose.”
We have all had this call and been left wondering what to do. The good news is, there is something you can do and that obnoxious debt collector told you about it. That federal law he so casually mentioned is called the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (the FDCPA) and if he violates it, he may owe you $1,000. Not only that, he may have to pay your lawyer’s fees. You can sue that debt collector and it won’t cost you a penny. The debt collector doesn’t want to talk about that.
So how do you know if you have an FDCPA case? Here are some of the most common violations
- Communicating with you when they know you have an attorney
- Suing you for a debt for which the statute of limitations has expired (usually 6 years).
- Calling your friends and family to get you to pay the debt
- Adding unauthorized fees
- Making false threats to garnish your wages without intending to do so
- Falsely threatening to sue you without the intention of doing so
- Attempting to collect a debt discharged in bankruptcy
- Communicating without identifying itself as a debt collector
- Falsely stating the character, amount, or legal status of the alleged debt
- Falsely implying that an individual is an attorney or that any communication is from an attorney when it is not
- Threatening any action that cannot legally be taken or that is not intended to be taken
- Falsely implying that the consumer committed a crime
- The use of any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the debt collection
- Collecting or attempting to collect any amount (including interest, attorney fees, collection costs or expenses) not authorized by the agreement creating the debt or permitted by law
- Using unfair or unconscionable means to collect or attempt to collect the alleged debt
- Using or threatening the use of violence or other criminal means to harm the consumer or his/her property
- The use of profane language or other abusive language
- Causing the phone to ring repeatedly? (The telephone is hung up and collector calls back immediately?)
- Communicating with the debtor knowing he or she represented by an attorney
- Calling the Consumer’s place of employment when the debt collector knows or has reason to know that such calls are prohibited
- Contacting the debtor after having been notified that the consumer refuses to pay the debt or that the debtor wishes the debt collector to cease further communication
If you think you have an FDCPA case you should contact a qualified attorney experienced in the FDCPA. As a good consumer lawyer will analyzes your cases to determine if any violations of the FDCPA have occurred. If a debt collecotr violates the FDCPA, you can sue for statutory damages up to $1,000.00 plus actual damages (like pain and suffering) and your attorney’s fees. In FDCPA cases, a good consumer lawyer won’t charge clients a penny out of pocket.