The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (or FDCPA) requires certain proper behavior for debt collectors and debt buyers. You are not supposed to be harassed over your debt.
How many times a day does that bill collector call you? Once, three, five, over ten times a day? Have you stopped answering the phone at all because they won’t leave you alone?
Debt collector laws most often appear in my practice after the filing of a bankruptcy. Many creditors sell the discharged debt in bundles to debt buyers, or it is transferred to a collector.
It is the collector’s responsibility to “scrub” the data it receives to make sure he or she is not trying to collect on discharged debt. But they don’t seem to want to spend $0.08 to check a person’s name or social security number to make sure they have not filed bankruptcy on the debt.
That’s right. 8 cents. That is all it takes to look it up in a government database of bankruptcy filings. Or, they probably have a service that tells them which debtors have filed a bankruptcy.
What this means is that it is far less expensive for them to pay a lawsuit than to check all of their files.
How do you know if you are entitled to damages under the FDCPA? You need to satisfy a basic 4 prong test:
- You must be a consumer,
- It must be consumer debt (a business credit card might be a problem!),
- It must be a debt collector (not the original creditor), and
- There must be a violation of the FDCPA.
While there might be arguments over the first three prongs, the fourth prong is what leads to a violation.
Generally, there is a violation of the FDCPA if a collector does something that is:
- Undignified; or
Most people know that bill collectors can only call during certain times of the day. But there are other rules they must follow as well.
Calling ten times a day could be considered a violation. Calling your employer could be considered a violation. Calling your neighbors could be a problem for the collector.
And certainly, trying to collect on a debt discharged in bankruptcy is a problem for the collector.
So what do you get out of suing for an FDCPA violation?
You could statutory damages of $1,000 for a simple violation with no proof of any actual damages. If a collector violated the act, then you get $1,000. The collector also has to pay your attorney’s fees and costs.
You may also be entitled to actual damages. What did you suffer because of a collector’s violation of the act? There have been awards of over a million dollars for extreme violations.
What else do you need to know?
FDCPA violations have a one year statute of limitations. So you must act rather quickly to preserve your rights.
Please contact me at 407-749-0080 if you feel you have been subject to an aggressive debt collector who may have violated the FDCPA.