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Your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Last week, we talked about some of the things debt collectors might try to get you to pay them. One of the ways you can defend against aggressive or even unethical debt collection practices is to understand and assert your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The act governs how and when debt collectors are allowed to contact you, whether they can release information to third parties and when they have to cease contact with you.

In most cases, debt collectors are not allowed to contact you at what the act calls "inconvenient" times without first getting your prior consent. Since debt collectors don't know the habits of every person, the act further defines these times. Absent other information to the contrary, debt collectors are allowed to assume that times between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. within your time zone are convenient. If they call before or after those times without getting permission from you to do so, they are not being compliant with the law.

Debt collectors are also not allowed to contact you at your employer's office if it can reasonably be shown that they can know your employer prohibits such contact. If you have notified your debt collector that you are represented by an attorney in the matter -- or if your attorney has done so -- the debt collector may also be prohibited from contacting you.

Some other provisions of the act include limitations on when and how debt collectors can provide information about your debt to third parties. Generally, for example, they can't call your relatives or neighbors about the debt; collectors can, however, call contact or reference numbers you previously provided for an account. They aren't supposed to talk details about your debt, but they can say they are trying to get in contact with you.

Filing a petition of bankruptcy puts an automatic stay on most debt collection activities, stopping calls and letters. For more information about how to get relief from debt collection, consider talking to a bankruptcy attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act," accessed Feb. 24, 2017

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