If you have ever been contacted by a collection agency, you know that it can be an unpleasant experience. A collection agency can turn simple acts, such as checking the mail or answering the phone, into dreaded tasks. However, it is important to know that there is a law in place intended to protect the people that collection agencies contact. The FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) was enacted to keep debt collectors from abusing, harassing, or deceiving a person when attempting to collect a debt. It also gives debt collectors strict guidelines to follow when collecting a debt. In this article, we will have this collection agency law explained in simple terms, to better inform debtors of their rights. For starters, the FDCPA outlines very clear practices for debt collectors to follow when contacting a debtor. Debt collectors are only allowed to call during reasonable hours (usually 8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.), but they are also allowed to call a debtor at work. However, if the debtor notifies the collection agent that their employer wants the calls to cease, the debt collector must stop calling the person’s place of employment. There are also rules of conduct a collection agency must follow when collecting a debt. A debt collector is forbidden from harassing any person from whom they are trying to collect a debt.Examples of harassment include excessively calling, insulting the debtor, or using obscene language. A debt collector is also not allowed to make false statements when collecting a debt. Examples of false statements include posing as a government official, making threats (lawsuits, imprisonment, seizing of home and property, etc.), or telling the debtor they owe more than they actually do. In addition, a debt collector can not use unfair practices in attempting to collect a debt. These practices include collecting an amount larger than what the debtor actually owes, or suing the debtor for a debt they do not owe. The FDCPA requires collection agencies to notify debtors of their rights, and any correspondence (mail or phone) has to contain the information that the contact is being used to collect a debt. The only reason a collection agency can contact a third party (family or friend) is to acquire the debtor’s phone number or address. If the collection agency has this information, they are forbidden to contact a third party. It is also illegal for collection agencies to tell a third party that they are attempting to collect a debt. The FDCPA is in place to protect the rights of debtor’s while making a collection agent’s job clear and concise. If a person being contacted by a debt collector feels that they are experiencing the violations discussed in this article, it is important that these misconducts are accurately documented. The reason for this is so that the claims can be proven if the debtor decides to take legal action. Now that you have had this collection agency law explained, you should feel more confident about your rights if you are ever contacted by a debt collector. It is best to avoid the situation altogether by staying current on your debts, but it is good to know that the FDCPA exists if ever find yourself on the receiving end of a collection call.
Each year, thousands of people around the world fall victim to identity theft… the assumption of their identity by others in an attempt to empty their bank accounts, establish fake lines of credit in their name, or to take advantage of current lines of credit and max out any credit cards that they might currently have. Luckily, there are some simple steps that you can take that will help you to avoid identity thieves and keep your personal and financial information private. The tips provided below are designed to help you to protect your identifying information, though in the end the implementation of them is up to you. Lock Up Your Records One easy way to keep your financial information out of the wrong hands is to purchase a lock box in which to keep your personal and financial records until they are out of date. Though the lock box doesn't have to be expensive, it's important to buy a sturdy one with a good lock on it in the event of a break-in or if someone should be in your house looking for financial information. Buying a fireproof lock box can also have the benefit of protecting your financial and personal information in the event if a fire or other natural disaster. Buy a Shredder When it comes time to get rid of old records, unused credit card applications, and other identifying information, a personal shredder is one of the best investments that you can make. It's generally best to purchase a cross-cut shredder, which cuts paper at opposite angles and makes it virtually impossible to reconstruct at a later date. These shredders can usually be bought for not a lot of money, and can more than make up the cost in the peace of mind that they can bring. Be Careful with Your Information Before giving out any personal or financial information, you should make sure that the person that you're giving it to is legitimate. Avoid giving any identifying information to anyone over the phone unless you know for sure who you're talking to and that it's alright to do so, and don't submit personal information over the internet unless it's via an encrypted and automated system. You should also avoid replying to requests for passwords for websites that claim to come from administrators… almost all major websites have automated password generation features, so administrators would not have any need for your password. Report Suspicious E-mail If you receive an e-mail that claims to be from a company that you do business with but is asking for financial or personal information, don't believe it. Don't reply to it, and don't click any links contained within… instead, manually type in the main URL of the website, log in, and report the e-mail to the company to verify whether it's legitimate or not. Watch Your Credit and Accounts In order to stay on top of identity theft, you should periodically check your credit report and go over all account statements and account transactions via online bank account access. Verify that all charges and debits are legitimate, and report any that appear without your authorization. Look for accounts or listings on your credit report that you didn't open, and contact the issuer should you find any. By taking a little time to stay on top of your bank accounts and your credit report, you can usually discover attempts at identity theft while something can still be done to stop it… and might just catch the person in the act.
I just received notice of a lawsuit that was filed against me by a collection agency. What do I do now? I get that type of phone call at my office about once a week. Fortunately, the caller has made the obvious correct choice in contacting an attorney right away. This is an important aspect when a collection agency is involved because a collection agency lawsuit is a different type of lawsuit. The collection agency has either been hired by the original creditor or has purchased the right to collect the debt off of you from the original creditor. That makes a little more work for the collection agency and may provide you with a defense. A review of the lawsuit is the first order of business. As an attorney, I ask three questions right away that form the basis of the defense of the lawsuit. 1. Is the Debt is legitimate? 2. Does the collection agency have the legal right to attempt to collect it from you? 3. Does the lawsuit meet all necessary legal requirements to proceed? Looking at these questions individually, let’s start with “Is the Debt legitimate?” The client has to advise as to whether they ever had this type of loan or credit card. If a collection agency is involved, the Debt may have been incurred years ago, and may be difficult for the client to remember. Time is an important factor here, because all states have Statutes of Limitation that define when a lawsuit must be filed. In Pennsylvania, the Statute of Limitation to collect on a debt is typically four (4) years, with certain exceptions. The second question is whether the collection agency has the legal right to attempt to collect from you. What I look for here is any evidence that the collection agency has authority to proceed. This might be indicated by a purchase agreement or an assignment from the original creditor. In my experience, I often find that the collection agencies fail to attach this document to their lawsuit. In that instance, I would place an objection to the suit to make the collection agency prove that the have the legal right to proceed. If they cannot, I move to have the lawsuit dismissed. The third question is whether the lawsuit meets all of the necessary legal requirements to proceed. Again, in my experience, I have found that collection agencies often fail to properly articulate the claims against the debtor, either by means of failing to provide enough information or failing to provide the proper documentation. If you are sued in Pennsylvania by a collection agency and can answer NO to any of the three questions posed above, you likely have a valid defense to the lawsuit. Contacting an experienced attorney is the right first step.