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Debtor protections from false and misleading collection practices

Although debtors are accorded various protections against false or misleading representations as to what creditors are allowed to do to collect on a debt, that does not mean that debt collectors will adhere to the law in the spirit with which it was intended. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is designed to stop creditors from indulging in abusive and dishonest behaviors, but they still might try to circumnavigate that law to confuse and scare the debtor into paying when they really do not have to as they move on with a bankruptcy proceeding.

The FDCPA states that debt collectors are not allowed to use misleading, deceptive or false tactics to try and collect a debt. They are not allowed to falsely imply that they are vouched for or linked to government agencies by using credentials like a badge or uniform. They cannot falsely represent the character, amount or legal status of a debt. They cannot falsely represent or imply that they are an attorney or are providing communication from an attorney. It is also illegal to imply that not paying the debt can lead to arrest or imprisonment or that wages or property can be seized unless it is a legal part of the process.

A debt collector is not able to threaten legal action that cannot be taken under the law or that the collector has no intention or right to take. It is illegal to make a false representation of a sale, transfer or referral leading to a loss of a claim to payment of the debt or to be subjected to any method that is not allowed under the law. Debt collectors might try to convince the debtor that they are behaving illegally or try to disgrace the consumer into paying -- this too is illegal.

In spite of the reality that debt collectors will be fully aware of what they can and cannot do in pursuit of a debt, that does not prevent them from pushing the legal envelope and using any methods necessary to coerce and convince a debtor to pay their consumer debt -- even when consumers are accorded debtor protections under the FDCPA. To avoid or stop this, the first call a debtor should make is to a qualified attorney to be protected and fully understand how false or misleading representations can take place and what to do to avoid it.

Source: ftc.gov, "807. False or misleading representations," accessed July 12, 2016

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