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Know your rights: When calls from creditors cross legal lines

The calls from creditors and debt collectors never stop, and they are taking a serious toll on your emotional health. You're not alone - the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that Florida residents filed more complaints against debt collectors than those in any other state.

In fact, of the total 350,000-plus claims filed with the FTC in Florida, over half were related to calls from debt collectors, up from 17 percent last year. If you are a victim of these constant calls, it is important to know when, where and how a debt collector can contact you - and when their calls cross legal lines.

Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from engaging in certain practices and from harassing people owing money. Debt collectors are not permitted to:

  • Use profane language
  • Call you at unreasonable hours - before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. - unless you expressly give permission
  • Threaten you with violence
  • Say you'll go to jail
  • Discuss your financial issues with anyone else, except your attorney or spouse
  • Misrepresent themselves as lawyers, law enforcement, government officials or other false identities.

Work calls

It's bad enough getting calls at home or on your mobile phone. Calling at work can jeopardize your employment or at least your concentration on the job. While it is legal for a debt collector to initially contact you at work, once informed you can't receive calls there, they must stop.

You can either tell the debt collector over the phone that you can't receive calls or send written notice. It is illegal for the debt collector to contact your employer regarding your debt. However, the debt collector is permitted to verify with your employer that you are an employee, and can request your home phone number and/or address.

What debt collectors must tell you

Under federal law, debt collectors must tell you the name of the creditor, the amount you allegedly owe, and how you can either dispute or verify the debt. The debt collector must also inform you that he is indeed a debt collector. By law, if the debt collector doesn't provide you with that information when first calling you, he must send you written confirmation addressing those issues within five days.

Reporting debt harassment calls

If you experience harassing calls from debt collectors, you can report them to the Florida State Attorney General's Office, or file a complaint with the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

You can stop creditor calls - even legal ones

Did you know that even legal calls from creditors can be stopped? Read our post about the power of the automatic stay. Once you retain a lawyer, the debt collector deals only with your legal representative. Our attorneys will evaluate the case details and make sure you understand your rights and options before moving forward.

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