Congress passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act in 1978, faced with an overwhelming number of complaints about debt collection. The act regulates third party debt collection agencies, not original creditors. Individual states may have additional consumer protection laws.
The law says third party debt collectors may contact you only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Collectors also violate the law if they contact you during times you have told them are inconvenient. These hours could include when you are picking up the children, settling in for supper or getting ready for work.
The act prohibits debt collectors from using any form of verbal abuse. They may not threaten you in any way. This includes threats to publicly broadcast your debt, supply false information on your credit report, tell your employer about your debt or take legal action they have no right to take. Profanity is prohibited, as well as any type of verbal insult.
A debt collection agency cannot file legal action in a place that is far from your home. Any legal action taken must be filed in your state, and you are not obligated to travel out of state to appear in court. An exception may be made depending on the status of the account and the delinquent dollar amount, but only if the account was opened in one state and you later moved to another state.
Third Party Contact
The law says agencies cannot contact any third party about your debt without consent. This includes employers, relatives and neighbors. In cases of missing contact information, the agency may be entitled to one phone call in an effort to find you. If this happens, the agency is not allowed to disclose that it is collecting a debt.
The agency must identify itself as a debt collector before discussing the matter at hand. Each communication, written or verbal, must include what is sometimes called a mini Miranda warning. This warning states that the communication is from a debt collector and it is attempting to collect a debt. Any information obtained will be used for that purpose only. If agencies do not communicate these two sentences, they are in direct violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Upon your request, the debt collection agency must provide you with information about the debt it is trying to collect. You can request proof of the debt. Agencies also must provide by request the original creditor's name, address and phone number, along with the original debt amount. They are given 30 days to respond to such a request and must cease communications until you receive the information.