Do you have a debt collector hounding you? Sometimes the debts are valid. Sometimes not. Laws regulating debt collectors do not care if the debt is valid. That is, a debt collector has the right to collect a debt owed by a consumer — BUT it must do so in a lawful manner. Even if you owe the debt, you have important rights relating to debt collection, summarized below.
You can stop collection abuse and harassment. Also, debt collectors who violate these laws may be liable to you for compensation. If the debt collector has broken the law, you may be able to bring a claim to recover money for you, plus have your costs and some or all of your attorney’s fees paid by the other side. Most cases settle out of court.
This firm sues abusive debt collectors. Both federal and Wisconsin and other state laws protect consumers against illegal debt collection techniques. The federal law is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692. The Wisconsin state law is Chapter 427 of the Wisconsin Consumer Act. Whether these laws apply to your situation depends on the circumstances. We will be happy to discuss this with you at no charge.
If you decide to pursue legal rights relating to illegal debt collection, make sure that you hire a consumer protection attorney experienced in bringing claims under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Contact us if you believe that you have been a victim of illegal debt collection techniques and you want to discuss a possible claim.
Illegal Debt Collection — What is a violation?
Contacting you at an unusual time or place or time known to be inconvenient to you, especially if it is before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 pm. — your time.
Contacting you after the collector knows you are represented by a lawyer.
If you tell debt collector in writing to stop contacting you or that you refuse to pay a debt, the debt collector cannot contact you again, except in limited circumstances.
Contacting you at your workplace after you told the debt collector not to call you there.
With few exceptions, a debt collector cannot tell a third party that you owe a debt or give out information about your debts to others. This includes your employer, your co-workers, your friends, your neighbors, and your relatives.
Communicating with you by post card or using any collection language or symbols on envelopes.
Harassment and Debt Collection Abuse
Using or threatening violence or harm to a person, a loved one, or your property.
Using abusive, obscene, or profane language in collecting a debt.
Advertising that you owe a debt or publish a “debtors’ list” for others to see.
Engaging in abusive telephone use, including telephone conversations that insult or abuse you, or repeatedly or continuously causing a telephone to ring to harass or annoy you.
Threats to ruin your credit or to report a disputed debt to a credit bureau without reporting that you dispute it.
Engaging in repeated contacts that become abusive.
False Statements Are Prohibited
- Misrepresenting the character, amount, or legal status of the debt.
- Threat of pre-judgment garnishment, liens, or arrest for not paying a debt.
- Claiming to be an attorney or law firm, if that is not true.
- Claiming to be affiliated with a credit bureau, if that is not true.
- Claiming that you committed a crime because you owe a debt.
- Pretending that papers are or are not legal papers, if it is not true.
- Hiding its true identity or use a false name of its company.
- Telling other lies in the course of debt collection.
- Threatening to take action that cannot legally be taken or is not intended.
- A debt collector must tell you in its initial communication with you that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.
- A debt collector must advise you in all communications that the communication is from a debt collector.
Unfair Debt Collection Practices
- Cannot use unfair or unconscionable means to collect debt.
- Collecting any amount (interest, late fees, or collection charges unless authorized by the agreement or permitted by law).
- Cannot accept or solicit post-dated checks for the purpose of instituting prosecution.
- Cannot take your property without getting a judgment, unless that is legal.
- No collect calls or telegram charges are permitted.
Validation of Debts
Within 5 days of its initial communication with a consumer, a debt collector must send you a written notice containing certain information about the debt and your rights to timely obtain verification of the debt.
If you do notify a debt collector in writing within 30 days of receiving the “validation notice” that you dispute the debt or that you request proof of the debt, all debt collection must stop until the debt collector obtains verification of debt and sends it to you.
If A Debt Collector Is Harassing You
Keep careful track of all communications. To help you do this, keep a separate notepad or phone log by the telephone. For each call, write down the date, time, name of company calling you, name of company they are calling about (which may be different), name of caller, and what they say and you say.
If the communication is in writing, do not throw it away! It could be worth money to you. Save the letter and the envelope. Write the date the letter arrived on the envelope.
If you dispute any part of the debt, tell the debt collector in writing. It need not be a formal or long letter. Simply tell the collector that you dispute the debt and want verification of the debt. Do not cite laws or threaten legal action. Do this as soon as possible after your first communication with the debt collector. Make a copy of the letter. Send it via certified mail, and keep the receipts!
If a debt collector has left a telephone message or voice mail, save it. If it is abusive, it could be worth money to you.
Do not record a telephone conversation with a debt collector without first knowing whether you can legally record the conversation. Some states require the consent of both parties to tape. You could get sued. You should get competent legal advice before you record telephone conversations.
When talking to a debt collector, do not become abusive, insulting, or use profanity. Do not threaten legal action or cite laws. Keep good notes of the conversation, including what is said by each of you. Keep track of the date and time of call, name and phone number of collection agency, and name of the debt collector.
Contact us if you have been the victim of abusive debt collection. We are experienced and effective in suing debt collectors. If you believe that a debt collector has violated your rights and want to contact us, click here.