A recent action on the part of the Federal Trade Commission has shed light on the sometimes deceptive and even abusive practices debt collectors will use to intimidate debtors. According to the FTC complaint, two managers from a California-based debt collection agency “harassed and abused consumers by threatening physical harm and death to them and their pets, threatening to desecrate the bodies of deceased relatives, and using obscene and profane language.” The FTC reported that the defendants “also allegedly improperly revealed consumers’ debts to third parties, such as the consumers’ employers, co-workers, neighbors, and family members,” among other atrocious and illegal practices. If you are considering filing for bankruptcy in Oklahoma, and you are currently receiving harassing or abusive phone calls and letters from debt collectors, contact our qualified bankruptcy attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center today to make them stop.
Illegal Debt Collection Practices Are Common
Unfortunately, this single occurrence of deceptive debt collectors threatening consumers isn’t out of the ordinary. In 2010, more than 140,000 collection complaints were filed with the FTC, which represents a significant increase from the estimated 119,000 complaints filed in 2009. While federal authorities have begun to take a harder line with debt collectors, additional regulations won’t provide immediate relief for consumers experiencing abusive or harassing phone calls and letters. That’s why it’s important for consumers to know their rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Debt collectors cannot talk to third parties about your debt.
Debt collectors may call a third party, like a friend or relative, in order to locate you, but they cannot share any information about your debt with that third party. If the debt collector does tell the third party anything related to your debt, you may have grounds to sue the debt collector.
Debt collectors cannot call you at all hours of the night.
According to the FDCPA , “No debt collector shall … [cause] a telephone to ring or [engage] any person in telephone conversation with such frequency as to be unreasonable or constitute a harassment to the person under the circumstances or at times known to be times other than normal waking hours of the person.”
Debt collectors cannot lie to you to get you to pay a debt.
Some of the lies that debt collectors may use against consumers include telling the debtor that he or she is committing a crime by not paying the debt, or falsely implying that they are attorneys or that they work for a credit bureau.
Debt collectors cannot pretend to be someone else.
All debt collectors must properly identify themselves in all communications with consumers. The first such communication must include a warning that clearly states that the debt collector is “attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose.”
Debt collectors cannot threaten to have you arrested for not paying a debt.
Since debtors prisons were abolished in the United States in 1833, consumers should not have to fear imprisonment if they don’t pay their debts. Unfortunately, many debt collectors still threaten that they will have consumers arrested if they fail to pay their debts, which is an illegal debt collection practice under the FDCPA.
Debt collectors cannot make you pay time-barred debts.
It is against the law under the FDCPA for debt collectors to make consumers pay debts that are no longer collectable because the statute of limitations on the debts has passed.
Debt collectors cannot contact you once you’ve filed bankruptcy.
Once a consumer decides to file for bankruptcy in Oklahoma, he or she can refer all calls from debt collectors to our bankruptcy attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center, which can significantly reduce any added stress the consumer may be feeling. Once the bankruptcy case is filed, an automatic stay goes into effect, which immediately stops all collection efforts against the debtor. This means that debt collectors can no longer send you letters, call you on the phone, or threaten to sue you or garnish your wages.