As a law firm that regularly represents cases concerning debt collection defense in Florida, we know the toll that debt collector harassment can have on struggling borrowers. You begin to dread hearing the phone ring and are constantly worrying about who in your life may be contacted regarding your missed payments next, not to mention the stress caused by legitimate or empty threats the debt collection agency may have made.
If this describes your current situation, there are three steps you can take to escape unfair collections practices.
Know What Constitutes Harassment
While it is true that debt collectors are permitted to contact you regarding debts you owe, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) outlines clear rules for how they may do so. Some behaviors prohibited by the Act include:
- Refusal to verify the debt | If you request proof of what you owe (as you should), the collector must provide it in writing within 30 days, and cease communication until it is received.
- Failure to Cease Communication | You have the right to request that communication ceases, and the collections agency must honor that request unless to specifically contact you about legal action that has been taken against you. Similarly, if you enlist a debt defense attorney, all communication must go through your lawyer.
- Use of threatening language | Obscene language, violent threats and criminal actions are all barred under the FDCPA.
- Misrepresentation | Every time a debt collector contacts you, they must clearly identify themselves. Failure to do so or outright misrepresentation could be grounds for fines and even a lawsuit.
- Excessive or unlawful calling or messaging | Debt collectors are only permitted to call you between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Though technically a legal gray area, these rules should also apply to communicate via text and online messaging. Collections agencies are also not allowed to call you excessively.
- Disclosing debts to unauthorized persons | You are the sole person who the debt collector may discuss the debt with. A debt collector discussing the matter with family, friends, co-workers or employers is strictly prohibited.
Exercise Your Rights
Once you have determined that harassment is, in fact, taking place, it is time to put an end to it. If you haven’t already, be sure to request verification of the debt to determine whether you have grounds for a dispute. From there, your next step will be to send the debt collection agency a written letter, formally requesting that it cease communications regarding the debt. Though this should be enough to halt the unfair behaviors, this is often not the case.
If the harassment continues, you can file a complaint with both the Federal Trade Commission and Florida’s Office of Financial Regulation, citing the agency’s violation of the FDCPA. This can open the collector up to fines, and even a lawsuit on your part if there is concrete evidence of harassment. On that note, you should document any instances of harassment, even before requesting a cease of communication. However, it is crucial to note that preventing harassing behaviors does not free you of any debts that are owed. If you are unable to repay those debts or believe you may have a case for contesting those debts, an attorney with experience in debt collection defense in Florida can help you explore additional legal action.
Enlist Legal Counsel
Nobody deserves to be harassed by debt collectors, and no one should face it alone. Even if the situation does not necessarily warrant a lawsuit, an attorney can be helpful for navigating the process of stopping harassing behaviors. For starters, once you enlist an attorney you should not have to communicate with the collections agency on your own. Additionally, your lawyer can negotiate repayment on your behalf, as well as identify any indicators that a dispute would be successful.
Did you resolve to stop being harassed by debt collectors in the new year? Our Florida debt collection attorneys can help you achieve it. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.