10 Things Debt Collectors Cannot Do!
Most people dread the unknown number in their caller ID. The reason behind that is simple: it’s probably that annoying creditor calling about that unpaid credit card bill. However, some debt collection calls can bring up a cold sweat and goose bumps for some. Only last year, CNN Money published an article about debt collection horror stories. It detailed reports that debt collectors had threatened to take away the children of those who owed money and even threatened to kill loved pets. Another collection agency, Rumson, Bolling & Associates, “was fined more than $700,000…for taking harassment to a whole new level,” reported CNN Money. One of the worst offenses listed in the FTC’s lawsuit, CNN Money reported, stated that Rumson’s “collectors allegedly threatened to dig up the bodies of debtors’ deceased children and hang them from a tree or drop them outside their door if they failed to pay their funeral bills.”
Fortunately, the Florida legislature has enacted various rules, regulations and laws to protect consumers in Florida from debt collection agencies. There are many limitations that debt collection agencies must take into account in pursuit of an unpaid debt. That being said, here are 10 things that debt collectors cannot do:
- A debt collector may not call you before 8 A.M. and after 9 P.M. Debt collection agencies cannot call you before 8 in the morning or after 9 in the evening unless you give them permission to do so. You don’t even need to speak to them at all. Once you have communicated to them that you do not wish for them to contact you again, usually by letter, the debt collection agencies must, under Florida law, cease to contact you except to notify you of an impending lawsuit or legal action against you. They’re not even allowed to call you on a Sunday.
- A collector may not use threats of violence against you, your family, and piece of property or reputation. The collector cannot use obscene or profane language; repeatedly or continuously make telephone calls with the intent to harass or abuse the person at the called number, or advertise the debt to people like your neighbors or employer.
- A debt collector may not contact you at work or at your place of employment in Florida if your employer does not approve. If a debt collector calls you at work, simply let the debt collector know that you’re employer does not approve of these calls. Under Florida law, they must never contact you at your place of employment. However, child-support collection services are exempt from this rule.
- Debt collection agencies cannot add unauthorized interest, fees, or charges. Debt collection agencies exist solely to collect the bills that you owe. That being said, you should only be expected to pay what you owe. Debt collections agencies cannot unreasonably profit from you by additionally adding more debt on your plate, such as interests, fees or charges. Unless these types of charges were allowed under the agreement you made with your original creditor, these practices are illegal under Florida law.
- A debt collector cannot use false statements in their attempt to collect your unpaid debts. Debt collections agencies cannot imply that they are attorneys; that they are about to sue you; that they operate or work for a credit bureau. They cannot say that you have committed a crime, or tell you that any papers sent to you by them are legal, binding agreements when they in fact are not. Additionally, Florida law precludes them from scaring you into believing that you will be arrested if you fail to pay the debt(s).
- Debt collectors cannot, in addition to making false statements, lie about their identities. Debt collectors are required under Florida law to accurately disclose their identities as well as their employer to the individual who are receiving phone calls or written communications.
- Debt collectors cannot use a letter or envelope that appears to have come from a government agency or a court. Letters and envelopes sent by debt collection agencies must clearly identify who is the sender. Adding a government or court insignia or any other identifying mark that is false is another debt collection practice that is not allowed.
- Debt collectors cannot order you to accept collect calls from them. Again, you are only expected to pay what you owe. Forced into accepting collect calls is considered an unauthorized charge that is not allowed under Florida law.
- Debt collectors cannot contact third parties about your unpaid debts. Other than your attorney, a credit reporting bureau, or the original creditor, debt collection agencies may not contact other third parties about your unpaid debts. They may only contact third parties for the limited purpose of finding information about your whereabouts.
- Finally, debt collectors cannot deposit a post-dated check you have given them before the date on the check. Debt collectors cannot accept a check postdated by more than five days unless it notifies you between 3 to 10 days in advance of when it will deposit the check.
As always it is always important to document the wrongful practices of the debt collector. Most websites that speak on unfair debt collection practices inform readers to document the violation as soon as it happens. If a debt collector breaks the law, write down what happened, when it happened, and who witnessed it. You can also try having another person present at your side during all future communications with the collector.
The King Law Firm understands the stress and fear involved with a persistent (and sometimes threatening) debt collector. If you have any concerns about these issues or have any questions concerning the laws surrounding these issues, please feel free to give us a call for a free consultation about your rights. We’re here to help you.