Examples of Actionable Unfair Debt Collection Practices
Threats of arrest or to press criminal charges against you
Many debt collectors threaten to have you arrested. Threatening to arrest you is one of the more egregious unfair debt collection tactics that is prohibited by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Threats of arrest can cause substantial emotional damages to a consumer who falls prey to this abusive debt collection tactic.
False statements or threats
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are prohibited from making false, deceptive, or unlawful statements or threats. Even so, false statements and threats are a common violation. These collection abuses occur when collectors and even debt collection attorneys lie about their names, company addresses, or the amount of the debt.
Other false statements and threats occur when collection agencies lie about their ability or willingness to sue you and others even lie about whether or not you owe the debt at all.
Many consumers have actually paid debts they never owed in the first place because a debt collector convinced them to pay by making unlawful false statements or threats.
Suing you for an old debt
Debt collectors can legally attempt to collect debt that is outside the statute of limitations. They cannot, however, sue you for a debt that is outside the statute of limitations.
If they sue, or threaten to sue you when the debt is outside the statute of limitations they are violating the FDCPA and you can sue them for damages without concern for a counterclaim since the debt is too old for them to sue you.
Be careful though. The statute of limitations needs to be raised as an affirmative defense if the collection agency sues you and there can be a lot of confusion about when the statute of limitations begins to run. Consumers are often confused about which statute of limitations applies in different cases so contact an attorney if you are unsure about any issues dealing with the statute of limitations to collect the debt.
Pretending they are not a debt collector
Debt collection attorneys and many debt buyers frequently claim that since they are attorneys or have purchased the debt they are not considered debt collectors and are not subject to the FDCPA. That claim is false. It has been well-established by the courts that collection attorneys and debt buyers who purchase the debt when it is past due are debt collectors and are subject to the FDCPA just like any other debt collection agency.
Collecting a debt that is already fully paid
It is surprising but true. Some debt collectors will attempt to collect debt that is fully repaid. Doing so is considered an unfair debt collection tactic that violates the FDCPA.
Disclosing the debt to your friends, neighbors, or employer
Other than your spouse, debt collectors may not disclose the existence of a delinquent debt to your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, employer, or other third person. Debt collectors often violate this part of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Disclosing the debt to third parties is humiliating and that makes it an effective yet unfair debt collection tactic.
Calling your cell phone without your permission
You can stop unfair debt collections where collection agencies use an autodialer to call your cell phone to collect a debt. Autodialed calls are prohibited unless the collection agency has your permission first. In many cases, you gave permission to auto dial your cell phone to the original creditor but you can always revoke that permission.
Be warned however. If a debt collector cannot auto dial your cell phone it may choose to sue you instead. Consider talking to a consumer protection attorney before revoking permission to auto dial your cell phone.
Lying, using abusive language, or harassing you
It is considered unfair debt collection conduct for debt collectors to harass you, lie to you, or abuse you with harsh or profane language. Many collectors use these abuses to coerce you into paying a debt. Some are so effective at this coercion they can get consumers to pay debts that were never theirs to begin with. Don’t fall prey to this abuse. Profane language, lies, and harassment are unlawful debt collection tactics.
Threatening to garnish your wages or seize your bank accounts
A debt collector may not garnish your wages or seize your bank accounts unless and until it has obtained a judgment against you. If the collection agency is threatening to garnish your wages or seize your accounts before it has obtained a judgment it is violating the FDCPA.
Suing you in an improper venue
Generally, debt collectors can sue you in only one of two places and it is an unfair debt collection strategy to sue you anywhere else. They can sue you in the place where you signed the contract or it can sue you where you reside at the time of the lawsuit.
The only exception is when the debt collection agency is suing you to enforce an interest in real property that secures your obligation. Then, it can sue you only where that real property is located. If a debt collector sues you anywhere else, it is violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Contacting you when you are represented by an attorney
If you are represented by an attorney for any reason that pertains to the debt at issue, debt collectors may not contact you. Instead, they are required to speak with your attorney. This only counts, however, if you actually have an attorney and have informed the debt collection agency of his name and contact information.
Calling you at inconvenient times or places
The FDCPA limits the hours in which a debt collector may call you to collect the debt. Those hours are presumptively limited in the FDCPA to between 8:00 a.m and 9:00 p.m., your local time. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act collection agencies are also prohibited from calling you at any time or place that it knows is inconvenient to you.
For example, if you work the graveyard shift and have to sleep until noon every day, the collection agencies cannot call you before noon once they know it is inconvenient for you to get morning calls. The same is true for calls to your work. Collection agencies cannot call you at work if you inform them that calls at work are inconvenient or not allowed by your employer, if true.