If you are facing a money crisis, you are probably one of the millions of Americans getting phone calls and letters from debt collection companies and law firms. Too often, these phone calls and letters are rude, abusive, and threaten actions against a consumer that cannot be lawfully taken. The two government entities that address these issues are the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Over the past twelve months, the FTC reportedly recovered over $64 million from abusive debt collection firms. In the same period, the CFPB received over 84,000 complaints regarding debt collection abuses. Clearly, abusive debt collection tactics continue to be a significant problem for many.
What Is A Consumer To Do?
While the FTC is expected to continue to police the debt collection industry as best it can, the problem is far too pervasive to allow that agency to address every abusive practice. The federal law that governs the behavior of the debt collection industry allows for individual consumers to act directly against an abusive debt collector. The law allows an award of damages of up to $1,000.00 per violation to a consumer victimized by abusive debt collection tactics. Additionally, the legal fees and expenses incurred by the consumer must be paid by the abusive debt collector.
How Do You Know If You Are A Victim?
Some abusive debt collection tactics are obviously violations of the law. If you are threatened with personal violence, arrest, or jail time for failure to pay a consumer debt, you are a victim. Debt collectors who are rude, threatening, or use profanity are also breaking the law. But the law protecting consumers is much broader than that. Other abusive collection tactics include misrepresentations of fact. For example, if a debt collector claims to be a collection attorney when this is not true, this representation violates the law. A threat to take action not allowed by law is also an unlawful debt collection practice. Finally, some debt collection abuses are less obvious; but, still violations of the law. For example, the law provides that debt collection letters sent to consumers must contain certain notices. The failure to include these notices violates the law.
What Should You Do If You Think You Are A Victim?
Taking legal action against an abusive debt collector is definitely not something you should undertake without competent legal counsel. And this area of the law is not one that a general practitioner is likely to know well enough to competently represent you. You need an attorney with specialized knowledge and experience in this area. To have a successful claim, you and your attorney must gather the proper evidence and build your case for a winning result at trial. A properly researched and prepared case is likely to settle out of court because abusive debt collectors don’t like to face the legal system. But getting your case to this point takes a knowledgeable and skillful lawyer.
What Is The Next Step?
If you are, or think you may be, a victim of abusive debt collection practices or tactics, you should promptly consult with a knowledgeable attorney to discuss your options. If you are getting harassing phone calls, find out more about how to preserve these calls. If you are getting debt collection letters, our lawyers will review these letters for you free of charge and with no obligation.
It is very important that if you are the victim of abusive debt collection practices, you should seek help without delay. If you procrastinate, you run the risk of the statute of limitations expiring. The expiration of the statute of limitations on your claim will prevent you from taking any action at all. This is true no matter how good the claim would have been had it been timely asserted. Don’t be a victim!
Ed Woods is the Managing Attorney of several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices throughout Mississippi. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Juris Doctorate from Mississippi College School of Law. Ed puts his extensive knowledge of bankruptcy law to use defending consumers from debt collection lawsuits and more. Read his full bio here.