Legal Lens: Understanding debt collection practices

Legal Lens

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 – There are certain practices that debt collectors can do and cannot do. Andrea McNairy, managing attorney at Brown & Crouppen, explains further in this week’s Legal Lens.

What is the fair debt collection practices act (FDCPA)?

“The fair debt collection practices act gives you certain rights and protections when somebody is trying to collect a debt from you. You have rights you should know what they are,” McNairy said.

What is the first step?

“The FDCPA protects people, not business debt, but individual debt. It requires somebody from a debt collection agency to reach out to you and offer you the mini-Miranda warning, saying that they are a debt collector, what debt they are trying to collect, and any information they get will be used for that purpose,” she said. “They are also required to give you a validation for five years again, saying what the debt is, the name of the creditor, where debt started from, and how to proceed if you want to contest the debt.”

 What are debt collectors not able to do?

“There’s a laundry list of things that are regularly violated. They can’t contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you allow them to do so,” McNairy said. “They can’t contact you at work once you tell them not to, can’t threaten to arrest you or engage in harassment, or engage in profanity, can’t make false statements saying you owe more than you do, or that they are with a different agency, and can’t contact you if you have a lawyer.”

What should you do if you are contacted by a collector?

“First thing to do is demand in writing proof of the debt. They have 30 days to do that in writing. Demand they only communicate with you in writing. It will make the calls stop. Finally, if served with a lawsuit, don’t ignore it. Represent yourself or reach out to a lawyer to represent you,” she said.

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