Scared to answer the phone or open your “overdue” stamped mail? Worried about going to work and your boss calling you into his office to talk about your financial situation? Concerned about walking to the parking garage and not finding your car in its spot because it has been towed?
You are not alone in these fears. Many people, just like you, are anxious and stressed out about what their creditors can do to them when they are unable to make payments on their debts. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act exists to set limits for creditors and protect debtors. The following is a brief overview of the guidelines surrounding some of the most common collection and harassment techniques.
Debt collectors may not contact you:
- Before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm
- At work if they have been notified that your employer doesn’t allow it
- If you have a lawyer (then they must contact the lawyer directly)
If you don’t want debt collectors to contact you, you can write a letter asking them to stop. Once this letter is received by your debt collectors, further collection actions must stop. From this point forward creditors are only allowed to contact you to inform you that they are stopping collection efforts or that they are pursuing legal action.
Debt collectors are allowed to contact other people, such as your family and friends, but only to find out your address, phone number or place of employment. They may not tell anyone except you that they work for a debt collection agency and they may not disclose your financial situation or indicate in any way that you owe money.
Creditors cannot take more than 25% of your paycheck. Additionally your home, car, furniture, employee benefits and insurance proceeds are protected from creditors up to a certain amount.
If creditors sue you they can garnish your wages. Creditors must send you a “Garnishment Exemption Notice and Notice of Intent to Garnish” form 10 days before the garnishment begins.
If exemptions are not claimed, creditors can take a portion of your paycheck for the next 70 days. The portion they can garnish excludes child support and allows you to keep 75% of your net amount or 40 times minimum wage, whichever is greater.
Harassment & Abuse
Debt collectors may not threaten you with violence or harm, publish your name (or that of any other consumer that doesn’t pay off debt) on any lists, use explicit and offensive language or call you to the point of exasperation.
Debt collectors must be completely honest with you about their identity, your debt and any actions they are planning to take against you. For example they may not:
- Say or imply they are attorneys or government representatives
- Say or imply you have committed a crime
- Falsify or slant your debt amount
- Say or imply they are planning to take action, when they have no intention of doing so
- Use a false name
- Pass false credit information along to anyone
- Send you imitation official documents when they are not
According to the Office of Attorney General Lori Swanson, the Minnesota Attorney General, “collectors may not use unfair or unconscionable means to collect a debt. Specifically, they cannot collect any amount greater than your debt, deposit a post-dated check prematurely, deceive you into paying for collect calls, threaten to take your property unless they can legally do so, contact you by postcard or apply your payment to a debt other than the one you have indicated.”
Ready to take control of your debt? Learn about your options in our free eBook: