Overspending, medical emergencies, the loss of a job and any other number of factors may cause people throughout Florida to fall behind on their bills. Often, this results in them being contacted by debt collectors. While it is the job of these agents to obtain payments, there are limits to what they can do in order to get what is owed.
Abusive collection efforts are prohibited by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA. The act covers personal, household and family debts, including credit card debt, medical bills, auto loans and mortgages. However, it does not apply to business-related debts.
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are prohibited from abusing, harassing or oppressing people when they are trying to collect a debt. This includes threatening harm or violence, using profane or obscene language, or publishing the names of people who refuse to pay their debts. Debt collection agents are also prohibited from calling people repeatedly in order to annoy or upset them.
The FDCPA also prohibits debt collectors from making false statements. When they contact people, they cannot misrepresent who they are or who they work for. Rather, they must inform people that they are debt collectors attempting to collect a debt. Within five days of their first contact, debt collection agencies must send notices that include the creditor’s name, the amount owed and information regarding what steps to take if people dispute the claim, according to the Federal Trade Commission. They cannot, however, tell people that the forms they have sent them are legal documents if they are not, or vice versa.
When making contact with people, debt collectors must follow certain guidelines that are outlined in the FDCPA. Debt collection agents are permitted to contact people’s family members or others in relation to their debts. However, they are only able to get information, such as a person’s phone number, address or place of work. They cannot discuss a person’s debts with others and, according to the FTC, they are generally only able to contact a third party once. When people are working with an attorney, the debt collector is only permitted to contact the attorney. They cannot reach out to third parties or the actual debtors.