More from last week on what a debt collector cannot do. This is based on the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the California Rosenthal Act (also called the Rosenthal FDCPA). You may have seen these tactics from debt collectors. Debt collectors, such as Persolve, Midland Funding, and CACH are some of the large ones who should know better, but do not always know better.
A debt collector cannot harass you. What is harassment? For example, a debt collector may not:
- threaten violence or harm;
- publish a list of names of people who refuse to pay their debts;
- use bad language, with bad being obscene or profane; or
- repeatedly use the phone to annoy someone. In other words, they cannot keep calling you and hanging up or calling you and yelling at you.
A debt collector cannot make false statements. The false statements include:
- a claim that they are attorneys or work for the government;
- a claim that you have committed a crime;
- represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting agency;
- misrepresent the amount you owe;
- tell you that papers they send you are legal forms if they are not legal forms; or
- tell you that papers they send to you are not legal forms if they are legal forms.
Also, a debt collector cannot tell you that:
- you will be arrested if you do not pay your debt;
- they will seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so. Typically, this means they must have a judgment against you first; or
- legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action. In other words, they cannot tell you that they will sue you if the statute of limitations has already expired.
A debt collector also cannot:
- give false credit information about you to anyone, including the credit reporting agencies;
- send you anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency, if it is not an official document from a court or the government; or
- use a false company name.
A debt collector cannot engage in unfair practices. What is an unfair practice? For example, a debt collector cannot:
- try to collect any interest, fee, or other charge on top of the amount you owe unless the contract or state law allows them to add these fees;
- deposit a post-dated check early;
- take or threaten to take your property unless it can be done legally. This typically means they need a judgment first; or
- contact you by postcard or another means where people can see your name and that this is a debt.
I will be posting more questions and answers over the coming weeks. Remember, if you are contacted by a debt collector, talk to an attorney about your options.