You probably didn’t intend to get behind in your payments, but now that debt collectors are contacting you, you are starting to feel like a criminal. Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates what debt collectors can and cannot do to seek payment of debts. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors are prohibited from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive tactics to get you to pay your debt.

Which Practices Are Prohibited?

A Debt Collector at a Young Couple's DoorWhen you owe money on a credit card account, car loan, mortgage, or medical bill, the creditor you owe is within their rights to use a debt collection service to take over seeking payment from you. However, the debt collector is required by federal law to follow certain protocols and to not harass, deceive, threaten, or abuse you. According to the FTC, debt collectors are prohibited from the following practices:

  • Using threats of violence or harm

  • Publishing a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts

  • Using obscene or profane language

  • Falsely claiming that they are attorneys or government representatives

  • Falsely claiming that you have committed a crime

  • Falsely representing that they operate or work for a credit reporting company

  • Misrepresenting the amount you owe

  • Indicating that papers they send you are legal forms if they aren’t

  • Indicating that papers they send to you aren’t legal forms if they are

  • Telling you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt

  • Threatening to sue you without the actual intent to do so

Debt collectors are also prohibited from engaging in unfair practices to confuse or frighten you. They may not do any of the following:

  • Give false credit information about you to anyone, including a credit reporting company

  • Send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency if it isn’t

  • Use a false company name to pressure you

  • Try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract that created your debt—or your state law—allows the charge

  • Deposit a post-dated check early

  • Take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally

  • Contact you by postcard

What You Can Do About it

If you were the victim of any of these practices at the hands of a debt collector, you can take action against them. You should first report the abuse to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and to the Federal Trade Commission. You may also sue the debt collector for any damages you may have suffered as a result of his unfair practices. If you need assistance with pursuing a claim against a debt collector, contact The Consumer Law Group, P.C.  Our experienced attorneys will guide you through the process to see that your rights are protected.