Debt Collectors: Your Rights When Dealing with Illegal Practices

Posted by Alesha Struthers Mar 01, 2021

Debt collectors have rights when dealing with debt collectors. Debt collection laws exist at both the federal and the state level to protect anyone who owes money from unfair debt collection practices. These debt collection laws specifically explain illegal debt collection practices as well as your rights as a debtor

In this article, you will learn more about your rights as a debtor and various illegal debt collection practices. You will also learn more about options you could use to handle your debt.

This article is written for informational and educational purposes only. It should not be taken as legal advice. To learn more about debt collection laws, a debtors rights attorney or bankruptcy attorney such as The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers can help guide you in your specific situation. The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers provides free consultations. Schedule yours now!

Let's start with one of the most common questions (and rights) that most people have about debt collection laws.

Can Debt Collectors Call You at Work?

The answer is that it depends. Are you allowed to receive personal calls at work on either your cell phone or your work line? This is an important question for you to answer. A common illegal debt collection practice that often occurs is debt collectors to state to you and to your employer that they are calling you about a "business matter" or a "private business matter." However, medical debt, credit card debt, personal loans, repossessions, etc., are not business matters since you incurred them in your personal life and not during the course of your employment. If you incurred them while you were on the job, they would not be in your name, they would on a company card of some kind or on a company line of credit of some kind. At that point, the debtor would be your employer, not you. Therefore, if you are not allowed to receive personal calls at work either on your cell phone or your work line, you should tell them not to call you. They must respect your right not to be contacted at work.

As a debtor, you also have the right to just tell the debt collector not to call you at work. However, you may find that this is more effective if you also inform the debt collector in writing. Send the letter via certified mail with the return receipt requested so that you have proof that you sent the letter. Also, keep a copy of the letter for your records.

Debt Collection Calls: When Can They Call You at Home?

What are your rights when it comes to debt collection calls at home? Can they call you whenever they want since they say that you owe them money? Some debt collectors will use illegal debt collection methods to make you think that they can call you whenever they want, but the Federal Debt Collection Practices Act is quite specific regarding debtors rights and debt collection calls.

During weekdays, debt collection calls may only make debt collection calls between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm during your time zone. They may also call you during these hours on Saturday. On Sunday, debt collection calls may be made between the hours of 1 pm and 5 pm during your time zone.

One illegal debt collection practice that occurs is debt collectors telling people that they can call whenever they want or that those hours are during the debt collector's time zone. Now you know that it is your right to only receive those calls during your time zone.

It is also your right as a debtor to inform the debt collector to stop calling you at home. You can tell them over the phone that you want the calls to stop. It is more effective to end debt collector harassment via certified letter with return receipt requested. Then, if the debt collection calls continue, you will have proof that you sent the request for the calls to stop. You should keep a copy of the letter for your records.

It is important to note that telling the debt collector to stop calling does not stop them from pursuing other options related to the debt. It only prevents them from continuing to call you.

Debt Collection Call Harassment: Can Debt Collectors Threaten You?

One of the most distressing actions taken in debt collection calls is also illegal: harassment through the means of various types of threats. The most common types of threats include having you arrested, taking away your home or property that actually isn't being used as collateral, and threatening to sue you if they don't actually plan to file a lawsuit.

Another form of illegal debt collection call harassment that some consider a threat and some do not is verbal abuse. This includes and is not limited to yelling at you, screaming at you, and calling you names. Verbal abuse and harassment are against both state and federal laws.

Washington state is a two-party consent state. You would need the debt collectors permission to record them harassing you or threatening you. Some debt collectors may give you permission and some may not. You can ask for permission to record the call. If they give you permission, you can record the phone call. Then, if the debt collector abuses, harasses, or threatens you, you have evidence. Save a copy of the call. If it becomes necessary to file a complaint or hire a debtor's rights attorney, you will have proof of the harassment or abuse.

You can also inform the debt collector to stop contacting you. This, like in the other instances of illegal debt collection practices, is often best done through sending a certified letter with return receipt requested so that you have proof that you sent the letter. Remember to keep a copy of the letter.

How to Get Rid of Debt

How you choose to get rid of debt depends on several personal factors. One of the most personal factors is money. What do your personal finances look like? Another important personal factor to consider is your personal goals. What do you want to do and when do you want to do it by? Are you just looking to raise your credit score or build your credit? Do you want to buy a house in the near future?

The most common options to get rid of debt include:
  1. Choose a self-styled debt repayment option that fits your lifestyle. There are many popular options to choose from, including the debt snowball and the debt avalanche.
  2. Consider getting involved in not-for-profit credit counseling. A not-for-profit credit counseling organization will help you determine the best way for you to get out of debt and stay out of debt. This may include settling with your creditors or debt consolidation.
  3. If you have cash that you can use to pay off some of your debts, consider offering to settle with your creditors. With a settlement, you only pay a portion of what you owe. You should pay with a cashier's check or money order, never with your debit card, credit card, or bank account. Keep a copy of the settlement offer, acceptance, and proof that you paid.
  4. A not-for-profit debt consolidation organization may be able to help you consolidate your debts into one easy to afford payment to help you pay off your debts.
  5. Filing for bankruptcy can get rid of your debt. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can give you a brighter financial future by getting rid of your debts, stopping debt collection activities (including debt collection phone calls and lawsuits), and help you get your finances back on track.

To learn more about debt collection options, including bankruptcy, schedule your free consultation with the Law Offices of Alesha Struthers now!

Disclaimer: This publication is not legal advice. It is intended as legal information only. For legal advice specific to your needs, contact the Law Offices of Alesha Struthers, PS at 800-972-0411.

Posted March 2021