Debt Collectors - Can They Do That?
Jan 30, 2019
No one takes on debt with the intention of letting it go to collections. However, sometimes life happens and you are no longer able to keep up with all your financial obligations. Not being able to afford your bills can be stressful. Your phone ringing off the hook with debt collectors looking for money that you don’t have, only makes it worse. It is important to understand what debt collectors can do and what they cannot do.
FAIR DEBT COLLECTION PRACTICES ACT
Good news is that there are laws that the debt collectors need to follow. Those laws are called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA applies to debt collectors only, not to original creditors collecting their own debts. However, some states have laws that restrict what creditors can do when collecting their own debts. In Wisconsin it is called the Wisconsin Consumer Act and the laws apply to debt collectors, including first-party collectors.
WHAT CAN DEBT COLLECTORS DO?
Contact You - Debt collectors can call, send letters, email or text messages in an attempt to collect a debt from you. However, they are only allowed to contact you during reasonable hours, between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Also, debt collectors must send a written statement to you stating the amount you owe and who the original creditor was within five days of first contacting you.
Call Your Work - Debt collectors are allowed to call you at work but are not allowed to disclose that they are a debt collector to anyone else. They are legally required to stop only after you inform a debt collector you are not allowed to receive personal phone calls at work.
Report to Credit Bureau - Debt collectors can report past due accounts to the credit bureaus as long as the information reported is accurate and within the credit reporting statute of limitations.
Take You to Court - Debt collectors can sue you over an unpaid debt, but they cannot threaten to sue you unless they intend to do so. Once a debt collector receives a judgment against you, they can collect on that debt by garnishing up to 20% of your wages and/or putting a lien on your home. (Read our blog titled, “Can My Wages Be Garnished”.)
WHAT CAN DEBT COLLECTORS NOT DO?
Discuss Your Debt with Others - Debt collectors can contact people you know to find out your address, phone number or where you work, but they cannot tell them the nature of their call or discuss the debt that you owe with anyone other than you or your spouse.
Harass You – Debt collectors cannot call you multiple times in one day. They cannot threaten you with violence or harm. They also are not allowed to verbally abuse you or use obscene or profane language.
Lie to You – Debt collectors cannot misrepresent the amount you owe. They cannot lie about being an attorney or government representative. Also, debt collectors cannot claim you will be arrested if you do not pay your debt.
Continue to Contact You – If you send a letter to the debt collector telling them to no longer contact you, they can only contact you to confirm they will stop contacting you or to tell you they are filing a lawsuit. Save a copy of the letter and send the letter by certified mail and request a return receipt so you have a record of your request for no contact.
It is important to know what debt collectors can and cannot do. However, even if you get the phone calls and collection letters to stop, your debt still remains. If you are interested in what options you have to take care of your debt, please contact our office. We can discuss a Wisconsin Section 128, a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy or a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy.
Pedersen Law Office, LLC offers free consults in all of our areas of practice and will meet with you personally to discuss your specific circumstances and see what options are available for you. Our law office serves the communities of Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, Oshkosh, Green Bay and their surrounding areas.