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Federal law protects debtors from harassment, misrepresentations

Even the most financially responsible people in Texas may someday face an unexpected financial calamity that causes them to be unable to pay their bills. Being unable to pay your bills can be incredibly stressful, especially once the calls from debt collectors start coming in. However, there are limits to what debt collectors are allowed to do.

Under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, it is against the law for debt collectors to engage in tactics when trying to collect on a debt that are harassing, oppressing or abusive. The FDCPA also states that debt collectors cannot make misrepresentations.

What kind of acts constitute harassment? Under the FDCPA, debt collectors cannot repeatedly call the debtor on the phone with the intention of harassing, abusing or annoying the debtor or whoever else answers the phone. Debt collectors cannot use obscene language and they cannot use swear words. They cannot threaten to hurt the debtor. While they can give credit reporting companies information about the debtor, they cannot issue a list of debtors that cannot pay what they owe. Finally, debt collectors cannot be anonymous. If they are calling a debtor, they must identify themselves.

Next, lets discuss some examples of unlawful misrepresentations. Debt collectors cannot make false statements about how much the debtor owes. They cannot falsely claim to be an attorney. They cannot make false statements that the debtor can be arrested. They cannot threaten to do things that are against the law. Finally, they cannot say they will do something that the truly do not intend to do.

It can be distressing to receive calls from debt collectors, but debtors should remember that there are limitations on what debt collectors can do. If a debtor believes a debt collector is harassing them or making false statements, the debtor can contact the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau either over the phone or online to report the debt collector's actions. In addition, debtors may also want to contact their attorney, to see if any legal action can be taken to stop the debt collector's unlawful actions.

Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, "What is harassment by a debt collector?," Accessed Aug. 27, 2017

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