Despicable Actions by Debt Collectors
The phone rings. Your child answers. The person on the other end claims that the parents owe on a past debt. Within moments they’re told, ‘your parents are going to jail.’It’s a despicable thought, but it happened to Annette Jaramillo. The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting describes Jaramillo’s thoughts after her daughter was scared and fearful that something would happen to her parents. These incidents are not contained matters. Hundreds of consumers file complaints with federal and state regulators to stop these types of calls. Even Congress stepped in an effort to eliminate these practices. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a Federal law that seeks to “eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors, to insure that those debt collectors refrain from using abusive debt collection practices.” Florida has an analogous Statute entitled Florida’s Consumer Collection Practices Act (Fla. Stat. 559.72) that protects consumers from abusive debt collection activities. The FDCPA specifically defines five (5) types of practices that debt collectors may not pursue: Harrassment, False Statements, Prohibited Statements, False Documents, and Unfair Practices. Debt collectors may not harass, oppress or abuse debtors or any third party that they contact through use of threats of violence or harm, by publishing the names of persons who refuse to pay their debts (except in the limited circumstance of credit reporting), use of obscene/profane language, or repeatedly using the phone to annoy someone. Collectors may not lie while trying to collect a debt. Examples of false statements include misrepresentations on the amount one owes, false statements that they work for a credit reporting company, claiming that the debtor has committed a crime or false claims that they are attorneys or government representatives. The FDCPA prohibits collectors from telling the debtor that they will be arrested for non payment of the debt, that they will seize/garnish/sell the debtor’s property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so, or threaten legal action against debtors if doing so would be illegal. Providing false credit information to anyone about debtors, sending the debtor anything that looks like an official document from a court/agency or using a false company name are practices which are also prohibited. Finally, the FDCPA further states that the debt collector cannot engage in unfair practices such as trying to collect interest, fees or other charges on top of the amount owed unless the contract that created the debt allows for it. Remember, that debtors have a right to sue collectors in state or federal court, but the cases must be filed within a year from the date the law was violated. A judge can require the collector to pay you up to $1,000 and you can also be reimbursed for attorney’s fees and court costs. In Florida, these protections are bolstered by the Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA)(http://www.dolmanlaw.com/practice-area/creditor-harassment-debt-collection/). If you feel that a collector is violating the FDCPA, then they may want to consult with a Clearwater consumer rights attorney. At that meeting, your attorney can advise you of your federal and state rights in more detail. Matthew A. Dolman, Esq., is your Clearwater creditor harassment attorney.