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The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)

What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was enacted in 1996 to protect individuals from all debt collectors. Abusive debt collection practices contribute to a number of personal bankruptcies, marital instability, job loss, and invasions of privacy.

What is the purpose of the FDCPA?

The purpose of the FDCPA is to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to ensure that those debt collectors who refrain from using abusive debt collection practices are not competitively disadvantaged and to promote consistent state action to protect consumers against debt collection abuses.

What types of debt does the FDCPA cover?

The FDCPA covers personal, family and household debts such as automobile purchases, medical care and credit card accounts. Under this law the debt collector, any person, other than the creditor, who regularly collects debts owed to others may not harass, oppress, or abuse anyone.

What are some examples of harassment, oppression and abuse?

Debt collectors may not use threats of violence or harm against a person, property, or reputation; may not publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts; may not use obscene or profane language; may not repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone against their will or telephone without identifying themselves; nor are they allowed to advertise your debts.

Debt collectors may not use any false statements when collecting a debt. For example, debt collectors may not falsely imply that they are attorney or government representatives; falsely imply that you have committed a crime; falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit bureau; 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; indicate that papers being sent to you are not legal forms when they are.

Debt collectors also may not imply that you may be arrested for not paying your debt, or imply that they will seize, garnish, attach or sell you property or wages, unless it is legal to do so and the collection company intends to do so, nor may they threaten that actions will be taken against you which it is not legal to take…nor do they intend to take.

Debt collectors may not engage in unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. For example, collectors may not collect any amount greater than your debt, unless allowed by law, deposit a post-dated check prematurely, make you accept collect calls or pay for telegrams, take or threaten to take your property unless this can be done legally, or contact you by postcard.

If you owe more than one debt, any payment you make must be applied to the debt you indicate. A debt collector may not apply a payment to any debt you believe you do not owe.

What if this law is violated by my debt collector?

If a debt collector violates the law, it is your right to report any problems within one year from the date you believe the law was violated to your state Attorney General's office and the Federal Trade Commission. Many states have their own debt collection laws and your Attorney General's office can help you determine your rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is federal law, which regulates the activities of those who regularly collect debts from others. Many states have adopted similar laws regulating the practices of debt collectors.

To read the entire Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, click here:

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* Debt Basics is not a lender or broker. We provide information and research on debt help and debt consolidation. Product and service offerings differ by state.