You come home one afternoon from work and the first thing you do is something you do every other day. You gather the mail and bring it into the house. Most of the mail is of the junk variety, but a letter stands out from the advertisements for Dominos pizza specials and discounts offered by the nearest dry cleaners.
You have received a notice from a debt collector. How you handle the initial letter from a debt collector goes a long way towards determining how the debt collection case goes.
The FDCPA and Consumer Debt
Before September 20, 1977, consumers had little, if any legal recourse against debt collectors that used a wide variety of intimidating tactics to collect delinquent debts. The passage of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) on September 20, 1977 changed all of that, as the United States Congress enacted safeguards to prevent abuse by debt collectors. Congress also defined the type of debts covered under the FDCPA to include family, personal, and household debts like home improvement loans and credit card balances.
How to Handle a Debt Collection Notice
The FDCPA grants consumers the legal right to request debt collectors demonstrate proof of a debt by going through a process called debt validation. Instead of immediately paying off the debt because of fear and anxiety, you must confirm the debt is real and the collector is legally authorized to collect the debt. Disreputable debt collectors send debt notices for debts that do not exist. Therefore, never assume a debt collection notice you received is legally valid. Even if the debt is legally valid, review your financial paperwork to find out if you have already paid the debt.
Time is of the Essence
By law, debt collectors have five days to send you a handwritten debt validation notice after you request one. The notice must include wording that you have 30 days to dispute the validity of the debt. The FDCPA allows debt collectors to include a debt validation notice with the original collection letter. If you do not dispute debt validation letter, the debt collector has the legal right to consider the debt is valid. During the 30-day response period, debt collectors can continue to contact you about the debt, with the exception of a few guidelines outlined in the FDCPA.
Threats and Abuse Not Allowed
The FDCPA clearly prohibits debt collectors from using abusive language of making threats via by phone or mail. Abusive language includes bad language and the threat to use force to collect a debt. A debt collector cannot under the FDCPA threaten to take legal action against you when there is no justification for seeking a legal remedy for an outstanding debt. How do you handle a debt collector that steps outside the legal lines of debt collection? You speak with an attorney.
When to Speak With an Attorney
The FDCPA clearly prevents the following actions performed by debt collectors:
- Making physical harm threats
- Using bad language
- Calling before and after legally mandated times of day
- Publishing names of consumers will not pay off debts
- Making false claims
If you follow the debt validation and a debt collector has crossed the line permitted by the FDCPA, fill out our Free Evaluation to speak with an FDCPA attorney in your area today.