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Pro Bono Attorneys Deskbook
Questions & Answers About
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

15 USC Sections 1692 to 1692

 

Note: The document below is an informational handout prepared by the Consumer Credit Division of the Missouri Division of Finance. It outlines the protections afforded by the FDCPA to consumers in debt who are having to deal with debt collectors. You can download the printable version by clicking the button below.

 

Click here for printable version

 

 

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a federal statute that curtails unfair, abusive, or outrageous practices and tactics by collection agencies.

Q: What Debts are covered?

Personal, family, and household debts are covered under the Act. This includes, among other things, money owed for the purchase of an automobile, for medical care, or for charge accounts.

Q:  Who is a Debt Collector?

  • A debt collector is any person, other than the creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to others.

  • A creditor who, collecting from his/her own debtors, uses a name other than his/her own.

  • An attorney who collects debts on a regular basis.

Not all debt collectors are subject to the Act. It does not apply to banks, other lenders, or businesses that collect their own accounts using their own names, nor does it cover them when they collect an isolated debt for another.

Q:  How May a Debt Collector Contact You?

A debt collector may contact you in person, by mail, telephone, telegram, or FAX. A collector may NOT contact a debtor:

  • before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.;

  • at inconvenient or unreasonable places;

  • at a place of employment if it is known the employer prohibits such contact;

  •  if an attorney is known to represent the debtor, the attorney should be contacted instead.

 Q:  Can You Stop a Debt Collector From Contacting You?

 You may stop a collector from contacting you by writing a letter to the collection agency telling them to cease all communications with you. The letter should be sent by certified mail with a return receipt requested. Remember to keep a copy of the letter.

Once the agency receives your letter, they may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact. Another exception is that the agency may notify you if the debt collector or the creditor intends to take some specific action. Ceasing contact does not preclude a lawsuit.

Q:  May a Debt Collector Contact Any Other Person Concerning Your Debt?

A debt collector may contact a person other than the debtor only to discover or verify the debtorís location. The collector must:

  •  identify himself but he must identify his employer only if expressly requested to do so;

  • not reveal the consumerís indebtedness to anyone other than the debtor or his/her attorney;

  • not use a post card or in any way reveal debt collection activity.

Validating the Debt

Within five days after contacting a debtor about paying a debt, the collector must send a written notice that includes:

  • the name of the creditor and the amount of debt;

  • that the debt will be assumed to be valid unless disputed within 30 days. If disputed, the collector will verify it and send a copy of the verification or of a judgment against the consumer.

During a period when a debt is being verified, the collector may not attempt to obtain payment.

Debt Collection Practices That Are Prohibited

Harassment: Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse any person; they may not:

  • use threats of violence or harm against the person, property, or reputation;

  • publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts, except to a credit bureau or advertise the debt;

  • use obscene or profane language;

  • repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone

False statements: Debt collectors may not use any false statements when collecting a debt. They may not:

  • use false, deceptive or misleading representations as to their identity, such as falsely implying they are attorneys or government representatives; 

  • falsely imply that you have committed a crime or state that you will be arrested if you do not pay your debt;

  • misrepresent the amount of your debt; 

  • misrepresent the involvement of an  attorney in collecting a debt;

  • indicate that papers being sent to you  are legal forms when they are not or indicate that papers being sent to you are not legal forms when they are;

  • state that they will seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they or the creditor intends to do so and it is legal to do so;

  • give false credit information about you to anyone.

Unfair Practices: Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices such as:

  • collecting any amount greater than your debt, unless allowed by law;

  • making you accept collect calls or pay for telegrams; 

  • depositing a post-dated check prematurely.

Source:
Missouri Division of Finance
Consumer Credit Division
301 W. High Street, Room 630
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Steven M. Geary
Senior Counsel/Consumer Credit

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