People in the Bethesda area who were once financially secure can suddenly find themselves in the difficult position having to make decisions about what bills to pay and which to put off if a serious life event occurs such as a major illness or job loss. Being forced to make these tough choices is only compounded when debt collectors start calling, demanding payment on what is owed. Fortunately, federal law protects debtors from debt collector harassment and misrepresentation.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors are not permitted to abuse, oppress or harass debtors. Harassment can include many behaviors. For example, making repeated phone calls with the intention to annoy, abuse or harass the debtor is considered harassment, as is the use of obscene or profane words. Debt collectors also cannot threaten violence or harm or publish a list of debtors who do not pay what they owe (outside of reporting such incidents to a credit reporting company). Debt collectors also must identify themselves when they call a debtor.
In addition, under the FDCPA, debt collectors are prohibited from using false, deceptive or misleading means to try to collect a debt. For example, debt collectors cannot make misrepresentations about how much a debtor owes or make false threats that the debtor will be arrested. In addition, a debtor collector cannot say they are a lawyer if they are not. Debt collectors are also prohibited from threatening to do illegal acts or saying they will commit an act that they actually do not intend to commit.
The FDCPA provides debtors with some powerful protections, but that does not mean that unscrupulous debt collectors will not violate it. If a debtor is the victim of debt collector harassment or misrepresentations, they will want to seek the assistance needed to address the situation and protect their rights. Bankruptcy attorneys may be a useful resource in such circumstances.