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All About the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

Written by Nickel - 10 Comments

In digging for information on how to deal with a wayward debt collector, I ran across a good bit of information on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Here’s a plain English rundown of the protections that the FDCPA affords if a creditor turns your account over to a third party debt collector…

First off, according to an article from Bankrate.com, collection agencies can’t:

» Call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.

» Talk to anyone but you (or your attorney, if you have one) about the debt.

» Threaten to garnish wages or seize property unless they actually intend to do so. Garnishment is illegal in some states, and in others requires a court order. In many cases, property seizure is not permitted. Check with your state attorney general’s office or state consumer protection office to find out what is legal in your state.

» Threaten to sue unless they are actually taking legal action. In some states, third-party collection agencies may not sue.

» Threaten you with arrest or jail.

» Use obscene language.

» Annoy or harass you with repeated calls.

» Call at work if you have asked them to stop.

» Falsely claim to be an attorney, a representative from a credit bureau or a member of law enforcement.

After digging though the FDCPA myself, I also learned that they can’t:

(1) Threaten you with violence or other criminal means of physical harm or harm to your reputation or property.

(2) Repeatedly or continuously call you with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass you (although it seems like “intent” is a bit nebulous and hard to prove).

(3) Publish a list of debtors.

(4) Contact you (except for very specific purposes) if you notify them in writing that you want to cease further communication.

(5) Use false, deceptive, or misleading practices in connection with the collection of any debt (this includes the false threats of litigation mentioned above).

Beyond this, they also have to provide you with “validation” of the alleged debt (assuming that you ask for it in writing). Such validation includes the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed, a statement that the debt will be assumed valid unless you object to it within 30 days, a statement that they will obtain verification of the debt or a copy of the judgment against the you if you object to the debt, and the name and address of the original creditor (again, if you object).

There are actually a number of other useful tidbits contained within the FDCPA, so I encourage you to give it a quick read if you’re ever faced with a call from a collection agency.

Published on October 9th, 2007
Modified on December 20th, 2008 - 10 Comments
Filed under: Credit Cards, Debt Reduction, Identity Theft, Mortgages

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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10 Responses to “All About the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)”

  1. 1
    Chris Says:

    The question is whether any of them follow those rules. From the stories I hear, they really don’t. Heck, I get calls at work from a collection agency who I repeatedly inform that they are not permitted to call the employee’s place of business. They just lie and say they’ve never called before. They know most people aren’t going to stand up for their rights so they are free to do whatever they want. It just seems like most of those rules aren’t enforceable without a lot of detective work, record keeping, and filing suit.

  2. 2
    Nicole Says:

    Great Information! Keep it coming!

  3. 3
    Xias Says:

    Nicole makes a very valid point, it seems a lot of the “rules” are just too easy to bend. I’ve never had a creditor call me mostly because I’ve never had any consumer debt, but I have had friends who complain that they’re just plain to aggressive.

  4. 4
    Xias Says:

    Oops, I meant Chris has a valid point :X

  5. 5
    Patrick Says:

    I’ve gone through this document as well, and I think it is interesting. I had to go through it because a collection agancy repeatedly called our house even after we told them the person they were looking for no longer lived there. They kept hounding us, asking for the former residents personal information, forwarding address, etc. Finally, after looking up some info in the FDCPA, I told them they were breaking the law and I asked them permission to record the phone conversation. We never heard from them again. :)

    Thankfully, I have never had to deal with a credit collection agency for any personal reasons.

  6. 6
    ray garcia Says:

    I have the same problem with a collection agency, I have written to them for validation, but instead they send me forms to fill, no way.
    also they never wrote to me about a debt which I don’t owe, what they did was report me to the (3) credit agencys. Thats in violation of my right. it seems no one is putting a leash on these sleazy company’s.

  7. 7
    Nancy Battersby Says:

    I have a problem that I cannot find an answer to. My daughter in-law, opened seven or more credit cards in my name two years ago, I did not press charges because of my son and grandchildren. She promised to make payments on the cards and did, except for one card “Bank of America”, all the companies allowed her to accept responsibilities for the debt and she paid them off, but Bank of America refused to let her do this, they insisted I had given her information that allowed her to open the account and therefore I was responsible,she did make some payments but of course this was the one she was least concerned with,she missed payments and eventually it was turned over to a collection agency. I have many problems with this, the credit card company offered her a settlement, if I had known this and the amount they would settle for I could have gotten a small loan and paid them myself, but she didn’t make the payments and it was turned over to a collection agency. Every time they contacted me about the accout I gave them her name and number and I would also contact her and she would tell me she called them and it was a misunderstanding. Regardless of how I got here I am now in a ba place. I had great credit all my life, now it is horrible. I have retired (two years ago) after working as a teacher for 23 years, I had two strokes and had to go out on disability before I could collect full pension. When I retired I sold my home and paid all my credit card debt and other bills off, I had no debt at all and moved to Virginia where I could live more reasonably on my pension. I cannot afford to pay off this debt, I cannot get a loan because of my credit, and now this is going to court and at the least they will tax me for the amount, which will put me in the hole even further. I don’t know what to do. I’m at the end of my rope. Please give me some suggestions.

  8. 8
    Linda Says:

    I have possible fraud activity on my credit reports. I have sent letters to most of the creditors who inquired against my name. However, they have not removed them or I have not heard from them. I have also sent “goodwill” letters to three collection companies that I have paid off several years ago. They just send responses that the info is correct. I was not disputing that, I was just asking them to either delete it or reflect a paid in full status. I live in GA and the statute of limitations is 6 years for open end contracts. I have several that have expired and I have also sent them letters to have them taken off my reports, again no response. What would be my next step?

  9. 9
    roxanne obrien Says:

    I am actually a debt collector myself and I thought I would also share some useful information about debt collecting practices and how to avoid harrassment. More importantly, I’d thought I’d clarify a critical error mentioned on this page, that may save you some time as the consumer. My intentions are clearly educational and I recommend anyone who has questions or concerns about their rights to go to fdcpa.gov for the actual laws written. I want to correct a mentioned item on this page is the notes “that a debt collector can only speak to you about the debt”. This is not true. A debt collector cannot speak to third parties about your debt or that even the purpose of the call is about a debt. This includes employers,neighbors etc. But a debt collector can speak to a debtor’s spouse, legal guardian,attorney or any other co-signers included with the debt,about the debt.

  10. 10
    Kris Says:

    How long can creditors try and collect debts in the State of Georgia? I was told the statute of Limitations was 4 or 6 years from the date of the last payment to the account

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