When the phone is ringing off the hook, at work and at home, it can be tempting to pay off debt collectors just to make it stop. But fighting back against debt collectors can be worth it when they violate federal law.
FDCPA Protects Debtors Against Harassment
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is designed to protect debtors against certain abusive and deceptive collection tactics used by debt collectors. This can include:
- Contacting third parties, like your boss, about your debt (with certain exceptions)
- Contacting you at inconvenient times, often early morning, late at night, or at work
- Using or threatening violence or harm
- Using abusive or foul language
- Calling you repeatedly
- Failing to identify themselves as debt collectors
- Threaten illegal action
- Adding additional interest or fees
- Causing you to incur communication fees (like collect calls)
- Making your debt public through publishing, use of post cards, or envelopes indicating you owe a debt.
There are a host of laws and regulations that limit when and how debt collectors can do their jobs. When they cross the line, you need the assistance of an experienced attorney to fight back against debt collectors.
FDCPA Makes Fighting Back Against Debt Collectors Worth It
Even when debt collectors are way out of line, many borrowers wonder if fighting back against debt collectors will be worth the time and expense involved. The FDCPA recognizes that raising debt collections violations can be inconvenient, and can sometimes cost more than the debt itself. The law allows you to collect a variety of damages that make it worth the effort:
No matter how little you owe, or how little the issue has inconvenienced you, if debt collectors cross the FDCPA, you are entitled to “up to $1,000” in statutory damages. These base damages make sure it is worth your while to raise the defense (and counter-complaint) in court.
The endless calls and mail from debt collectors can cause a level of stress that harms a debtor’s emotional well-being, marriage, and other relationships. Calls to third parties can invade your privacy, giving out private details of your financial life. When that happens, you can collect money damages for emotional distress caused by the debt collector’s actions.
When a debt collector’s actions continue to escalate, the damage done can go beyond emotions to actual physical harm. This could include physical injuries caused by stress, such as diagnosed headaches, rashes, digestion issues, or heart and blood-pressure problems. It may also include physical damage to your property, particularly in cases of illegal repossession.
Sometimes, debt collectors’ actions can also cause problems at work. You may have to take time off to deal with your medical difficulties. Other times, debt collectors’ calls result in discipline at work. Your employer could even fire you to make the calls stop. When that happens, you, and your employer, may be able to collect lost wages for lost productivity (yours and your coworkers) and time away from the job.
Wage Garnishment Recovery
One debt collector tactic is to garnish a person’s paycheck (or tax returns) to pay down the debt. This is legal in many circumstances. However, when debt collectors violate the FDCPA, you may be able to get that money back.
Possibly the most important relief available under the FDCPA is “injunctive relief”. This remedy allows the court to direct debt collectors to do something, or stop doing something: stop calling, stop emailing, or direct all communications to your attorney.
Attorney Fees & Costs
One main reason debtors avoid defending debt collection cases is the fear attorney fees will cost more than the debt itself. However, violations of the FDCPA can take that worry away. The law allows victims of FDCPA violations to collect attorney fees and costs, ensuring that everyone can afford to take advantage of these important consumer protections.
The FDCPA makes fighting back against debt collectors worth it. If you are being hounded with collections calls, you can rest assured that calling a debt collections defense attorney will bring the calls to an end, without making the problem, or costs, worse.