Debt collectors are known for taking drastic measures to recover payment. Whether it be sending multiple text messages to your cell phone or calling relatives, they will do whatever they deem necessary to get you to pay up. However, debt collectors are not above the law. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) limits the actions of debt collectors and provides guidelines for them to operate within.
Being that a vast majority of debt collection efforts are via phone calls, most people fail to realize that debt collection letters must also abide by the FDCPA; but since debt collection letters usually go directly from the mailbox to the trash, most consumers fail to look into the text, much less open them. As a result, millions of debtors miss out on possibly thousands of dollars in compensation. Knowing what to look out for in debt collection letters is the first step in getting debt collectors to pay you!
Restricted Language in Collection Letters
The first letter that a debt collector will send out is known as a validation notice. The purpose of this letter is to make you aware of the status of your account, inform you of the date on which the payment was due, and provide you instructions to follow to resolve the issue.
To encourage you to open the notice, many debt collectors use check stock collection envelopes rather than blank envelopes, but that is perfectly legal. The FDCPA violations are to be found in the language used in the letter. A debt collector cannot:
- Threaten you with jail time
- Threaten you with wage garnishment in states where wage garnishment is illegal
- Use profanity
- Use the words “litigation” or “legal action” as a part of a scare tactic
- And about 100 other rules debt collectors have to follow
It is also illegal for debt collectors to exaggerate the amount owed in the debt collection letter. This is often done to grab the attention of the debtor and get them to resume making payments or at least call to inquire about the status of their account.
The Little Things Matter
Even if a debt collection letter is free of threats or any abusive language, the wording is crucial to pay attention to. A Pennsylvania debtor won an FDCPA lawsuit against a debt collection law firm as a result of improper phrasing in a 30-Day validation notice. A portion of the law firm’s notice read:
“Unless this office hears from you within thirty (30) days after receipt of this letter that you dispute the validity of the debt, or any portion thereof, this office will assume the debt is valid.”
It also went on to specify that the response had to be in writing. Being that the federal law requires consumers to SEND their response within 30 days(not for the collector to RECEIVE it) and that the FDCPA does not require responses to be in writing specifically, the judge ruled in favor of the debtor.
Protecting Yourself From Harassing Debt Collectors
Specifics like this can be the difference between you having to pay an alleged debt and a debt collector paying you. Get the legal help you need to file and win an FDCPA lawsuit by reaching out to the Florida FDCPA and TCPA lawyers at The Law Offices of Jibrael S. Hindi. We will review any of your debt collection letters for free to determine whether a violation exists.
Under the FDCPA you are entitled to up to $1000 for harassment by debt collectors, and under the TCPA you are entitled between $500-$1500 PER CALL OR TEXT! Contact us today for a free case evaluation. If we decide you have a legitimate claim, you will pay us nothing. The FDCPA requires the debt collector cover all attorney fees.