6 Things to Know About Harassment from Credit Card Debt Collectors
It can be overwhelming and scary to be deep in credit card debt. Having debt collectors harassing you doesn't help, but you do have some rights under federal law. Here are six things to know about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA):
- Debt collectors cannot harass you. Yes, they can call to discuss your credit card debt. But the next time a debt collector wakes you up early in the morning or calls late at night, check the clock. Debt collectors are prohibited from calling you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree to take their calls then.
- Your debt is private. Collection agencies are not allowed to call your family members, neighbors, or co-workers to trash you and discuss your credit card problems. They can call your spouse or an attorney whom you have hired to represent you. Debt collectors also can contact other individuals for the sole purpose of asking for your phone number, address, or place of employment. Collection agencies cannot harass these people repeatedly.
- Some debt collection agencies have practiced some very intimidating tactics to try and get people to pay up. But federal law does not allow debt collectors to threaten you with violence or physical harm, use obscenities, or call repeatedly just to annoy you.
- A debt collection agency can report your unpaid credit card debt to credit bureaus. If that happens, your credit report is going to take a hit. With bad credit, expect to receive higher credit card rates or be denied credit.
- A debt collector can sue you for unpaid credit card debt. If they win a judgment, your wages could be garnished, or they could have funds from a bank account turned over to them to pay the debt.
- Debt collectors are not allowed to lie or misrepresent themselves. They cannot lie about being attorneys or government representatives, claim you have committed a crime, say you are going to jail over credit card debt, or lie about how much you owe.
If you believe that a debt collector's harassment has broken the law, you can sue them within one year of the company breaking the law. If you win the case, the collector may be required to pay you up to $1,000, plus attorney's fees and court costs. You can also file a complaint with your state attorney general's office and the Federal Trade Commission.
Published 07/14/10 (Modified 03/09/11)