The Brown & Crouppen Legal Lens takes a closer look at everyday legal issues and gives you a better understanding of topics that may affect you.
ST. LOUIS – If you have an outstanding debt and collectors are calling, you do have legal rights.
What should people need to know right out of the gate when it comes to debt collectors?
“There is something called the Federal Debt Collection Act. It prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive tactics, so you need to know what the FDCA provides for you as remedies or rules that debt collectors have to follow,” said Andrea McNairy, managing attorney at Brown & Crouppen.
Can debt collectors call at will?
“No…it’s not an original creditor. A debt collector is usually one of these third-party collector agencies that tries to collect a debt but they can’t contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you agree to it,” McNairy said.
There are additional limitations for debt collectors too.
“They can’t call you at work once you tell them you can’t have work calls, can’t threaten to have you arrested, make false statements, contact you directly if you have a lawyer, or call other people and harass them about your debt,” she said.
Debt collectors do have a job to so and McNairy explains that process.
“They can attempt to collect a debt and set up payment plans, or send you to court if you don’t pay, but they have to follow certain rules and give you a mini-Miranda when they first contact you – saying they are a debt collector attempting to collect a debt and any information they gather will be used for that purpose,” she said.
“They also have to send you a validation notice of that debt within five days of that contact saying where the debt originated from and how much it’s for and what you should do if you want to contest that debt.”
What should you do if a debt collector contacts you?
“Ask for proof of debt in writing within 30 days and then you should also request that the debt collector only contact you in writing from that moment on,” McNairy said. “It does things. It makes sure that there is clear communication and it will stop the calls.”
McNairy said her office is seeing an uptick in requests for legal help in dealing with debt collectors for a variety of reasons, including COVID medical bills.