How Do I Confront Unfair Debt Collection?
These questions and responses DO NOT constitute legal advice. They are intended to provide general information to improve your consumer literacy and give a broad understanding about how the marketplace works in the areas discussed. Consumer protection laws differ in different states. Even in California laws frequently change through legislative amendments, developing case law, and sometimes the effect of overriding federal regulations. Your legal rights and remedies will depend on your particular circumstances, documents and evidence. If you have further questions, just give us a call.
No, no, and no. California law protects debtors against this sort of abuse.
Only under very limited circumstances. When contacting others, including your workplace, the debt collector may not say anything disparaging about you, and may only identify the debtor’s employment and current location.
Yes, but with certain exceptions they may only talk to you or your spouse. Keep track of every phone call. You can’t record calls without informing the caller – except if they choose to leave the message on your answering machine. If so, save every call that is recorded. Don’t erase anything that will prove their harassment.
No. The debt collector may not call at unreasonable hours or cause a telephone to ring repeatedly or continuously. As painful as it may be to do so, keep a running record of the times of all calls.
First: Beware! Make sure you actually owe the debt, in the exact amount claimed, to the person calling you. Get everything in writing. And don’t pay anything extra for the “privilege” of renegotiating the deal.
Do not ignore it. This is where you really must seek legal advice. Many debtors have defenses to these lawsuits and the creditors are just assuming that you will default. Fight back, particularly if you feel you were cheated in the original transaction or you don’t owe the exact amount they claim you must pay.
A lot has been said in the press lately about “toxic assets.” This catch-all term includes uncollectible debts. Yours may be one of those. Sometimes this debt was bundled and sold. The party harassing you might not even be able to prove they own the debt. If some company you don’t even recognize demands payment, you should be sure that they can prove they own that debt and have the right to demand payment from you.
If the original creditor has sold the debt (which is often the case) the debt collector has to give certain notices. If you get such a notice, demand the sender verify the debt. Keep every piece of paper you receive from debt collectors. A “validation notice” must comply with the law.
The debt collector may not falsely represent him- or herself as a lawyer or make the false representation that he or she is a consumer reporting agency, or make other fraudulent statements.
This is not a general debt advice column. But it is good common sense to limit your spending, cancel unnecessary credit cards, open your mail, throw nothing away and organize all your loan documents. We recommend the book “Surviving Debt” published by the National Consumer Law Center. You can order one from www.nclc.org or go to your local public library. This book will help you learn which debts to pay first, what debt relief scams to avoid, when you can negotiate, what defenses you might have, and when to seek legal help.
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