When you’re deep in debt, it’s easy to get demoralized. That can make you feel powerless, especially when debt collectors are threatening and demeaning. Unfortunately, some of the worst players in the collection business count on that. As you work to regain control of your finances, you may have to interact with debt collectors. But, you don’t have to let them get in your head, and you don’t have to take them at your word.
First, remember that you are not alone. In Nevada, 3.53% of total consumer debt is at least 90 days past due. That’s slightly higher than the national average, but nationwide 4.7% of household debt is 30 days or more past due. If those percentages seem small, consider that household debt topped $14 trillion at the end of 2019. That means more than $65 billion in past-due bills around the country. Don’t let creditors and collectors define you by your debt.
Second, make sure you understand your rights and the options available when debt collectors cross the line.
Legal Protection for Nevada Consumers
Several state and federal laws protect Nevada consumers with regard to financial transactions, credit, electronic transfers, and more. The two that have the greatest impact in the debt collection arena are the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and NRS §§ 649.370-375. Both of these statutes apply only to third party collectors, such as collection agencies, not to the original creditor.
The FDCPA offers two types of protection. First, it imposes obligations on third party collectors and debt buyers. Some key obligations include:
- Providing certain specific information about the alleged debt
- Identifying themselves as a debt collector
- Providing written notification of your right to dispute the debt
- Ceasing collection action while a timely-filed dispute is pending
The federal law also prohibits a wide range of collections practices, including:
- Repeatedly calling the alleged debtor as a means of harassment
- Calling the alleged debtor at unreasonable hours
- Misrepresenting the status of the debt
- Falsely claiming that legal action has been or is about to be commenced
- Calling friends and family, except to locate the alleged debtor
- Calling the alleged debtor at work if the collector has been advised that the employer objects
- Sending communications designed to appear as if they are official documents
- Using obscene or profane language
- Threatening violence or other criminal action
- Threatening any action the collector can’t legally take, or doesn’t intend to take
- Depositing or threatening to deposit a post-dated check early
The Nevada statute provides protection in two different ways as well. First, the law specifically makes it a violation of Nevada state law to violate the federal FDCPA. The state statute also sets forth a short list of specifically prohibited practices, including attempting to collect interest, charges and fees not authorized by law or by agreement with the consumer.
While these protections typically protect people who are in debt from unfair and abusive practices by debt collectors, those protections also extend to people who don’t actually owe the debt. For instance:
- Mistaken identity cases, in which collection activity is being pursued against the wrong person due to a similar name or other mix-up
- Collection efforts based on the debt of a family member, former spouse, or other person the alleged debtor is not legally responsible for
- Debts that have been partly or fully paid, but a collector is still pursuing the balance
- Debts that have been discharged in bankruptcy, but have been illegally resurrected by a debt collector or debt buyer
When Debt Collectors Break the Rules
To protect yourself against unscrupulous debt collectors:
- Promptly dispute any debt that you don’t recognize, that you know isn’t yours, that reflects an incorrect balance or is in any other way inaccurate, and do it in writing
- Keep a copy of all dispute letters and other correspondence with the debt collector, including notices you receive from the debt collector
- Keep records of any phone calls, including the time and date of the call, who you spoke with, the number they called from, what was discussed, and any threats or other inappropriate behaviors during the call
- If necessary, talk with a Las Vegas attorney who handles debt collection harassment issues
Above all, don’t take legal advice from debt collectors. Too often, people are bullied into making payments they can’t afford, or even paying debts they don’t believe they owe, by high-pressure collection tactics.
Some debt collectors may go as far as to threaten arrest, or to falsely tell you that your legal defense to the debt no longer applies since it has changed hands, or that you are not eligible for bankruptcy. Remember that the debt collector’s job is to get as much money as possible from you as quickly as possible. And, unfortunately, some will lie and make threats to get the job done.
A local attorney experienced with debt resolution and debt collector harassment can be your best resource, both to fight back against dishonest and abusive debt collection tactics and to explore long-term solutions to your debt problems.
To learn more, schedule a free consultation with one of the experienced debt resolution attorneys at Haines & Krieger. Just call 702-903-1459 or fill out the contact form on this page.