Debt is a way of life for many, if not most Americans. Homeowners live with mortgages, educated people live with student loans and many more of us live with car loans. No one likes debt, but we learn to live with it, and when times are good we make our regular payments and don’t worry too much about it.
Unfortunately, for many of us, it is all too easy for our debt to get out of our control. An illness, an injury, the loss of a job or a business opportunity — all these unexpected occurrences can make us fall behind in our payments. Once we’re behind, our unpaid balances gather interest. Soon, it can feel nearly impossible to get our debt back under control.
Being in this kind of debt can be frightening. It is made worse when debt collectors start contacting us. In particularly bad cases, these contacts can turn into creditor harassment: repeated calls, abusive language and worse.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
For people who are faced with this kind of harassment, the good news is that they should be protected by federal law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from such practices as:
- Repetitive phone calls meant to harass or annoy
- Threats of violence
- Calling without identifying themselves
- Using obscene language
It also prohibits certain acts of misrepresentation, such as collectors identifying themselves as lawyers or law enforcement if they are not. Collectors cannot misrepresent the amount owed, or threaten further actions that would not be legal.
Know your rights
Many people do not know their rights under the FDCPA or how to take advantage of them. They may need help from a lawyer who can advise them of their rights and represent them in interactions with the debt collection agency. A skilled lawyer can also help clients to examine their options for debt relief.