The Washington Post recently reported that a Southern California debt collection firm has been shut down by the Federal Trade Commission for violating debtor harassment laws. What makes this story especially newsworthy is the outrageous accusations against the collection company, including threats against a family pet and digging up a corpse!
The FTC halted operations and froze the assets of a debt collection business that operated under a variety of names. The company’s owners are charged with violating the Federal Trade Commission Act and Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The FTC alleges that a collector for the company unlawfully threatened a woman who owed money on her daughter’s funeral bill. She was told that they were going to dig up the body and hang her from a tree if she didn’t pay. She was also told that they would take her dog and eat it.
Federal laws protect consumers from these types of outrageous threats. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or FDCPA, is one federal law that protects against abusive collection practices by third party collectors. Third party collectors include collection agencies and collection attorneys. The FDCPA does not apply to business debts or to original creditors. The FDCPA prohibits certain abusive practices including:
- Telephone calls before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. (your time);
- Requesting payment beyond what is actually owed;
- Using abusive, profane or obscene language;
- Threatening legal action which is not permitted by law (e.g. criminal action);
- Telephone calls at work after being instructed that your employer prohibits phone calls from debt collectors;
- Contacting you directly after being instructed that you are represented by an attorney
Hiring a bankruptcy attorney provides immediate relief from creditor harassment under the FDCPA, and all collection action must cease the instant you file a bankruptcy case. This protection lasts the duration of your bankruptcy and is replaced with the bankruptcy discharge at the end of your case. A creditor who violates these bankruptcy prohibitions can face a contempt of court charge in the federal bankruptcy court.
Don’t let creditor harassment overwhelm your life. Take charge by consulting an experienced bankruptcy attorney about your debt and learn how the federal and state laws can protect your property, your income, and your peace of mind.