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Recognizing illegal debt collection practices

Feeling overwhelmed by debt can prove stressful enough, but if you are also the target of persistent calls from creditors, you may feel as if you are at your wit’s end. Some debt collectors may try to use less-than-ethical means in their attempts to get you to pay your debts, but certain laws prevent them from contacting you and communicating with you in certain ways.

So, how and when can creditors legally contact you in their attempts to collect money from you, and under what circumstances could their actions cross the line and become unlawful?

Understanding the terms of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, outlines the terms under which creditors cannot lawfully contact you. More specifically, debt collectors cannot:

Contact you at unreasonable hours

Debt collectors cannot lawfully attempt to get ahold of you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. Any actions to the contrary would mean a debt collector was in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Lie or intentionally deceive you

Current laws prevent creditors from deceiving you when trying to collect on your debts. For example, a debt collector cannot claim that he or she has the authority to arrest you, or that your arrest is forthcoming if you do not pay up immediately, if this is not, in fact, true.

Contact you at work after receiving instructions otherwise

Debt collectors also cannot continue to contact you at your place of employment if you have told them, whether in writing or otherwise, that you cannot receive these types of calls while at work. Furthermore, if you have begun bankruptcy proceedings and your creditors know this and continue to contact you anyway, they may be violating what is known as “automatic stay” in doing so.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act also prohibits debt collectors from threatening you, lying about how much money you owe and contacting your friends or family members, unless the only reason for the communication is to obtain your contact information.

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