Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal statute that protects consumers from harassing, deceptive, or fraudulent acts by debt collectors. It also gives consumers legal remedies if a debt collector violates any of its restrictions. It provides debtors with a means of disputing the validity of a claimed debt. Many debt collectors continue to behave unscrupulously, though, and many consumers do not know their legal rights against such conduct. Our Chicago FDCPA lawyers can help you understand how these laws help you, and can defend your rights against harassing debt collectors.

Whom Does the FDCPA Cover?

The FDCPA applies to debt collection activities that use “any instrumentality of interstate commerce,” such as the U.S. mail or the telephone. The law prohibits harassing or deceptive behavior by “debt collectors,” defined as people or businesses who routinely collect debts on behalf of third parties. The law usually does not apply to people or businesses who are attempting to collect debts owed directly to them. It does not apply to federal or state employees attempting to collect money allegedly owed to the government, such as taxes.

What Kind of Debt Does This Law Cover?

Personal and household debts fall under the protection of the FDCPA. This may include personal credit card bills, mortgages, car loans, utilities, or medical bills. Debts incurred by a business, or those incurred by an individual for the purpose of operating a business, are not covered by the FDCPA.

What Acts Does it Prohibit?

Debt collectors are prohibited from numerous acts deemed harassing or deceptive, such as:

  • Calling an alleged debtor at home early in the morning or late at night, or calling repeatedly with no legitimate purpose;
  • Calling an alleged debtor at work, if the alleged debtor has notified the debt collector not to do so;
  • Posing as law enforcement or some other government employee;
  • Contacting others regarding an alleged debt, except for the sole purpose of obtaining an alleged debtor’s contact information; and
  • Disclosing details of an alleged debt to any person except the debtor, the debtor’s spouse or attorney, and the three major credit agencies.
What If the Debt Is Not Mine?

Shortly after contacting an alleged debtor, the FDCPA requires a debt collector to send a notice identifying the creditor and describing the debt. If an alleged debtor disputes the validity or the amount of the debt, the debtor may notify the debt collector in writing. This should stop further contact from the debt collector, unless the debt collector provides further evidence to purportedly validate the debt.

What Are My Rights Against Someone Who Violates the FDCPA?

A person who believes that a debt collector has violated their rights under the FDCPA may bring a claim in state or federal court up to one year after the alleged violation. The statute allows damages of up to $1,000 per FDCPA violation, even without any proof of actual harm. A claimant may also recover attorney’s fees and costs.

Serving the Chicago area, the FDCPA lawyers at Nationwide Consumer Rights bring decades of experience with consumer rights litigation and class actions. We have dedicated our practice to exposing rip-offs and frauds and protecting the rights of consumers around the country. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our Chicago FDCPA attorneys, please contact us online or at (877) 990-4990.

Sources:
http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/fdcpa/fdcpact.shtm
http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0149-debt-collection

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