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Spring 2007-05 A summary of Fair Debt Collection Practices Act rules

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Number 67
Spring 2007

A summary of Fair Debt Collection Practices Act rules


Harassment

Debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse anyone or any third parties they contact. For example, debt collectors may not:

  • use threats of violence or harm;
  • publish a list of consumers who refuse to pay their debts (except to a credit bureau);
  • use obscene or profane language; or
  • repeatedly use the telephone to annoy someone.

False statements

Debt collectors may not use any false statements when collecting a debt. For example, debt collectors may not:

  • falsely imply that they are attorneys or government representatives;
  • falsely imply that the debtor has committed a crime;
  • falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit bureau;
  • misrepresent the amount of the debt;
  • indicate that papers being sent to the debtor are legal forms when they are not; or

indicate that papers being sent to the debtor are not legal forms when they are.

Debt collectors also may not state that:

  • the debtor will be arrested if he or she does not pay the debt;
  • they will seize, garnish, attach, or sell the debtor's property or wages, unless the collection agency or creditor intends to do so, and it is legal to do so; or
  • actions, such as a lawsuit, will be taken against the debtor, which legally may not be taken, or which they do not intend to take.

Debt collectors may not:

  • give false credit information about the debtor to anyone, including a credit bureau;
  • send the debtor anything that looks like an official document from a court or government agency when it is not; or
  • use a false name.

Unfair practices

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 the debt, unless state law permits such a charge;
  • deposit a post-dated check prematurely;
  • use deception to make the debtor accept collect calls or pay for telegrams;
  • take or threaten to take the debtor's property unless this can be done legally; or
    contact the debtor by postcard.

Source: Federal Trade Commission


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