When it comes to collecting unpaid debt, debt collectors are subject to certain laws prohibiting them from harassing consumers. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers from abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices during the debt collection process. The FDCPA applies to debt collectors, defined as parties who collect on debts owed to others. When a consumer is approached by a debt collector about an unpaid debt, it is crucial to understand how the debt collection timeline works in order to protect the consumer’s legal rights.
Steps in the Debt Collection Process Under the FDCPA
Generally, the FDCPA dictates the following timeline for debt collection practices:
- Debt collectors must tell consumers about the debt they are attempting to collect by sending a written notice. This notice must indicate the name of the creditor, the amount owed, and the instructions on how to repay the debt. The notice must be sent within five days of initial contact with the consumer.
- The consumer then has 30 days to contact the debt collector and give the reasons why the consumer does not owe the debt or why the amount is incorrect.
- If the debt has already been paid, the consumer should provide a copy of the canceled check or bank statement to the debt collector.
- If the consumer is contesting the amount of the debt, he or she should provide information about payments made, interest and fees charged, or interest and fees that were waived.
- If the debt is a result of identity theft, the consumer should include a copy of the police report within the 30-day validation period. If the consumer does not dispute the debt within that time period, it can be assumed to be valid.
- Once the debt collector receives the consumer’s written response, it may not renew attempts to reclaim the debt until the debt has been verified. In addition, the debt collector must send proof of the debt’s legitimacy to the consumer.
- If the debt collector cannot or does not send proof of legitimacy to the consumer, all collection efforts must immediately cease.
- In Virginia, verification can be as little as a written letter that the debt collector checked and verified the debt is yours.
If a debt collector is contacting you in a harassing or unfair manner, we can help. We encourage you to review the feedback of our many previous clients on our client testimonials page today to learn more.