The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a very important law pertaining to bankruptcy and debt. Without the law, debt collectors could employ a number of very dirty and malicious tactics to force in-debt parties to pay. They could act as cops or lawyers on the phone, intimidating a borrower; they would constantly call to try and wear a borrower down; or they would harass the borrower's co-workers or family in an attempt to break their spirit.
The FDCPA curbs (or outright bans) behavior like this, but unfortunately, that doesn't stop some debt collectors from taking the low road and using some questionable -- if not unethical -- tactics to get a borrower to pay up.
For example, say your husband or wife recently passed away. It's an emotional and difficult time for you, and you're just trying to get a grasp on things. During this time, you receive a somewhat-threatening letter from a financial institution (or their lawyers) that says you are responsible for your deceased spouse's debts. These debts were in his or her name, and they accumulated before the two of you were married. In fact, the debts are from before the two of you even met.
It's a classic case of debt collectors trying to prey on a borrower -- especially one in a vulnerable or susceptible state of mind.
Remember that just a debt collector writes a strongly-worded letter or calls you with a stern warning, that does not make them right. Debt collectors make mistakes or violate the FDCPA all the time.
Source: Huffington Post, "It's A Matter Of Life... And Debt: Know Your Rights," Carole Brody Fleet, Jan. 13, 2014