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Understanding Rights Under Federal Law Can Stop Debt Collection Harassment, Report Says

September 24, 2009

Our Orange County debt collection abuse lawyers have recently seen a sharp increase in the number of complaints we receive about unfair and illegal practices by debt collectors. So we were glad to see a Sept. 17 article in Forbes magazine that advises consumers about how to fight back by understanding their rights. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is very specific about the procedures collection agencies must follow to legally collect a debt, the article said. And if they violate any of the law's provisions, no matter how small, consumers may sue them under the FDCPA, potentially turning the tables to make the debt collector into the debtor.

The article starts with the story of Liz Nero, who successfully sued a debt collector that left out part of a legally required notice when it contacted her. Under the FDCPA, debt collectors must notify consumers that they have a right to contest the debt in writing within 30 days of receiving written notice of the debt collection attempt. Nero's notice was missing the words "in writing." That might sound like a trivial matter, but without that language, Nero might have been led to believe she could legally make that request over the phone. Because debtors lose the right to demand verification after 30 days, this little omission could have effectively denied Nero her right to contest a debt collection effort, even if it had been a case of mistaken identity. Instead, Nero sued and won $500 in damages, plus nearly $3,000 in attorney and court costs.

This is far from the only violation of the FDCPA that could allow a debtor to sue. In fact, Nero's attorney said she sees two other violations much more frequently: failure to tell debtors that their accounts are accruing interest, and threats of legal actions the collection agencies cannot take, such as wage garnishment. As Carson debt collection abuse lawyers, we frequently hear these complaints and others about debt collectors. As the article says, any violation of the FDCPA can form the basis of a lawsuit, even seemingly trivial matters like a lack of local licensing. To make sure all of your rights are being respected by debt collectors, it's important to know those rights; save all communications with the debt collector, including recording phone calls if possible; and consult an attorney as soon as possible if you believe your rights may have been violated.

Howard Law LLP represents consumers who were unfairly and illegally treated by debt collectors. That includes violations of the FDCPA as well as California's similar state law, the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. In our experience as Chino fair debt collection attorneys, consumers frequently don't realize they have these rights, leading to live in fear or with harassment for months because of a debt collector's illegal behavior. It's only after they come to us that they learn they have a strong legal case. Like Nero, consumers who were harassed, lied to or verbally abused by collection agencies may sue those agencies for up to $1,000 for each violation of the law, plus attorney fees and damages for any actual personal or financial harm, such as the cost of taking time from work.

If you believe a collection agency may have broken the law in dealing with you, Howard Law can help. To learn more about your rights and your legal options, please contact us through our Web site or call 1-800-872-5925 today.