New York | New Jersey Fair Debt Collections Practices Act Attorneys
If you owe money to several creditors and are late on any payments, you may begin to receive phone calls regarding past amounts due. You may feel anxious every time the phone rings, thinking it is another creditor harassing you to pay your debts. To make matters worse, some creditors resort to especially intrusive methods of trying to compel you to pay, such as informing your boss of your financial debts or making threats. Our experienced lawyers at the Schmierer Law Group can assist with putting an end to this harassment.
Creditors do not need to resort to illegal forms of harassment to make you uncomfortable. The letters and phone calls can affect your mental health and make it difficult for you to concentrate at work and seek a path to financial recovery. If you are overwhelmed with debts, you have the legal right to stop these abusive phone calls while you start to make decisions for your financial future.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal law that makes it against the law for any creditors to use any abusive, deceitful or unfair practice in their attempts to collect a debt. This law does not eliminate or remove the responsibility to pay a debt but rather places boundaries and restrictions on creditors who would choose to use harassing and intimidating tactics to threaten and harass debtors who owe them money.
The FDCPA covers commercial debts that include mortgage debt, medical debts, credit card debts, or other personal or household debts. It is important to note that the FDCPA does not cover debts owed by a business. There are very specific rules and guidelines that a creditor must follow with respect to the FDCPA, and if they fail to follow these regulations a debtor has the legal right to file a lawsuit for damages and attorney’s fees against the abusive creditor.
Creditors (or debt collectors operating on behalf of a creditor) must provide specific information to the debtor with respect to the collection of a debt. They must provide debtors with the name of the creditor and the amount owed by the debtor and inform them that the debtor has the right to request the name and address of the original creditor and a legal right to dispute any debt.
If creditors or debt collectors fail to provide this information to a debtor when they make contact, they must send a written notice with this information within five days of that contact. It may benefit debtors to visit creditors or debt collectors on first contact just to ensure that they have the right person and that the debt in question is actually a valid, legal debt. However, all debtors have the right to request that creditors cease all communications at any time.
FDCPA communication restrictions
While creditors or debt collectors have the legal right to attempt to pursue collections on a debt, under the FDCPA they must follow these communication restrictions:
- Never contact debtors at an unusual time or place.
- Never contact debtors before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Never contact debtors at their place of employment if the debtor has indicated being unable to receive phone calls at work.
- Never harass debtors in any way, including using threatening or intimidating language.
- Never lie to debtors regarding the amount owed, who they are or who they represent, or falsely claim that a debtor will be arrested or legal actions will take place if these actions are unenforceable or untrue.
- Never contact debtors known to be represented by legal counsel.
- Never engage in any unfair or illegal practices such as collecting interest or fees illegally, depositing a post-dated check early or threatening to take property they do not have a legal right to under the law.
Unexpected collections actions
Most people know when they owe institutions money and wait in dread of that first collection call. However, there are some instances where even people who believe they are debt-free may begin to receive collections calls. If you find yourself in this position, your first instinct might be to shrug this off. However, it is worth looking into.
Not only can our experienced debt collection lawyers put a stop to the phone calls, but they can also help you determine if the debt is legitimate. Note that there are several instances that might result in collections actions you did not expect.
Hackers now have access to more data than ever before. This results from more online transactions and consumers storing personal data in the cloud. Because of this, it is possible that a fraudster used your personal information to open an account. You may be held liable for this account until you prove you did not open it.
If you are or were married, there are certain debts you share or did share with your spouse. Even if you did not physically sign to a loan or consent to be added to an account, your spouse may have added you. If that person then defaults on the account, creditors may come after you. If you obtained a divorce in a community property state, creditors states may also hold you liable for debts considered part of the marital property.
It is not uncommon for people of the same name to live in a similar area. You may have also received the recycled phone number from someone who owed a lot of debts or moved into a debtor’s former residence. When this happens, you could become subject to the collection calls that an individual once received. This is one of the easier cases to resolve, as the Schmierer Law Group can prove to the collectors that they are contacting the wrong person.
Unfortunately, there are also instances when you may owe a company money and not be aware of it. For instance, you could cancel a paid service before moving from the Greater New York or New Jersey area, not realizing a final bill or fee for closing the account will follow. Thinking the account is clear, you may never log in again while fees pile up. The company may send letters to your former place of residence that are never forwarded to you. Eventually, it might sell that debt to collectors.
Enforcing your legal rights
Regardless of how the debt came to be and its legitimacy, you have the legal right to request that a creditor or debt collector stop contacting you. If you or your lawyer makes this request, creditors must completely cease all contact except to tell you there will be no further contact or to notify you of legal action.
It might feel overwhelming at first, but there is no reason to struggle with debt collectors on your own. Work with an experienced attorney from the Schmierer Law Group today to ensure your legal rights remain protected. We represent clients nationwide with FDCPA claims. Contact us today to schedule a full review of your case. We look forward to helping you reclaim control of your life and your peace of mind.