If you are being harassed or mistreated by a third party collection agency, you may be entitled to receive damages under the FDCPA. FDCPA, which stands for Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, was created by Congress in 1977. Its main objective is to protect individuals from abusive and unethical practices from collection agencies.
Collection agencies must follow a protocol of permissible and forbidden actions under this act. Among other things, a collection agency cannot contact others about a consumer’s debt, threaten of use profanity, or contact outside of certain hours.
For the most part, collection agencies are reputable and will treat you in a professional manner. However, you may be contacted by an illegitimate individual or group that is disguising itself as a reputable agency. They may illegally purchase customer information or obtain it through public databases.
They may be trying to get you to give them money for a debt that you may not even owe. They may also be trying to get personal information- such as a social security number- to commit identity fraud. Here are some common ways to tell that a collection agency is illegitimate. If you notice any one of these things during a call, do not agree to any payment or give out any information.
- The same person talks to you every time or most times. Usually collection agencies have a call center staff that is made up of different employees. Dealing with the same person every time is a red flag.
- Someone immediately answers the phone. For the most part, these agencies have a system of prompts to determine if callers are in the right place.
- The collection agency will not give you an address or phone number. Of course, any legitimate company will be able to tell you these right away.
- The collection agency cannot give you details about your debt. This is a requirement by the FDCPA.
- The agency only accepts one or a couple of forms of payment. This is a common sign that these are probably scam artists.
- The collection agency is extremely unprofessional. Most debt collection agencies are aware that they must treat customers in a certain way; with courtesy and respect. If the representative is using excessive profanity, is threatening or is abusive, hang up immediately.
If you feel that your rights have been violated by a collection agency, there are several ways in which to file a claim. The first is to file a complaint with the FTC. Two others are to file in state or small claims court. Also, filing with the state attorney general is also possible. Although all of these methods can yield a favorable result, generally the most highly recommended method is filing in state court.
The amount of possible damages is highest in a state court, and a court lawsuit will allow you to present all evidence and receive proper attorney representation. There are a number of attorneys who specialize in collection claims that a consumer can choose to be represented by.
Locating an attorney can be as simple as conducting an internet search of collection attorneys or contacting the bar association in your state. Getting a free evaluation can, also facilitate finding a lawyer. Generally, a consumer has one year from the date of the incident to file a claim.