If you have not personally had an unpleasant experience dealing with a debt collector, you may know someone who has. In either event you may wonder if the collector has gone too far in its efforts to collect.
What can be done to stop a creditor from engaging in harassing behavior? Depending on how you answer some questions, federal law, in the form of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, may provide some relief.
The threshold question in this regard is, "Who is contacting me?" If the person or firm doing so is a debt collector (that is, a person or a business that collects debts for others), then the FDCPA may apply to your situation, but if it is the creditor itself and not a debt collector contracted by the creditor for collection efforts, then the federal law does not apply.
The second qualifying question is, "What kind of debt is it?" If a debt collector is contacting you about a personal obligation, such as credit card debt, then the FDCPA may help you; but it will not help if the debt was incurred for a business.
Assuming that you qualify for the protections that the FDCPA offers, the next question is whether the debt collector's behavior constitutes harassment. The law prohibits several kinds of activities, such as calling you repeatedly or late at night, or threatening you with harm, or using profane language when communicating with you.
Aside from banning abusive behaviors, the law also allows you to seek certain types of relief such as formally requesting the debt collector to stop contacting you, or not to call you at work. You can even file a lawsuit against a debt collector that violates the act, and if you prevail you may recover at least $1,000 as well as attorney fees and court costs.
The purpose of this post is to make you generally aware of the existence of the FPCPA, and not to familiarize you with all of its provisions. What is more, you may also have other protections and remedies against debt collector harassment beyond the FDCPA, even under New Jersey state law.
If you are in a situation in which you believe that a debt collector is acting illegally, it is always a sound idea to consult with an attorney to determine your options.