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Managing Debt

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Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was passed to protect customers from being shaken down by collection companies. This act restricts the tactics they may use. Please note: The FDCPA applies to outside collection agencies, the ones that most credit card companies hire after their own attempts have failed, and not to the collection department within the card company or other lender.

What are collection agencies not allowed to do?
As a result of the FDCPA, collectors cannot phone your home so often as to harass you. They cannot call before 8 A.M. or after 9 P.M. They cannot threaten you or use obscene language. They cannot call you directly if they know you are being represented by an attorney, and they cannot call you at work if they know your employer prohibits such calls. They cannot call your friends, your neighbors, or the people you work with and reveal your financial situation.

Can a collection agency obtain information on my whereabouts from government records, such as Social Security records or my tax returns?
No, a collection agency cannot make use of government records. But an original creditor can gather information from a state motor vehicle department about registration of a car, from your voter registration records, from the post office, or from a utility company or a bank, in order to locate you.

My collection agency does everything it is not supposed to do. Can I sue?
Yes, you can sue a collection agency, but a better first step might be to use the provisions of the FDCP to warn your collection agency that it is acting in defiance of the law. What you should do is write a letter telling the collection agency to stay away from you, to leave you alone, and to cease all communications with you. In this letter, inform the collection agency that under provision 15 of the U.S. Code, section 1692c, this letter constitutes your formal notice to stop all future communications with you except for the reasons specifically set forth in the federal law.

I have written a letter like the one above, but I am still being harassed. What can I do?
Contact the Federal Trade Commission ( and register a formal complaint. If you can prove continued harassment, the collection agency is open to a lawsuit - one you could win if you have the proper documentation or proof. There have been several successful suits against collectors where the consumer won in court.

Do I have any other legal resource against a collection agency?
If you think that the collection agency may be behaving in a way that you suspect is illegal, write a letter to the Federal Trade Commission: Consumer Response Center, Room 130-A, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Include in your letter as many details as possible. Send a copy to your state attorney's office, your local consumer protection office, or both. You might also consider sending a copy to the legal department of the credit company that started the ball rolling in the first place. If this fails contact the American Collectors Association, at P.O. Box 39106, Minneapolis, MN 55439. It's members agree to conduct their business in a professional manner.

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