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15 USC 1692 Explained

Sarah Edwards | July 10, 2023

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Summary: 15 USC 1692, otherwise known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), establishes regulations protecting consumers from abusive debt collectors. SoloSuit explains everything you need to know about the FDCPA so you can protect yourself from noncompliant debt collectors.

If you’ve ever received letters or phone calls from a debt collector, you know how annoying they can be. Letters will likely demand immediate payment and include minimal information about the origins of the obligation. If a debt collector calls you, they’ll interrupt your busy day and leave you in a bad mood.

Fortunately, consumers have protections against debt collectors under 15 USC 1692, known as the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA). Congress enacted the FDCPA in 1977, and it has been amended several times since then.

The FDCPA aims to shield consumers from abusive and harassing debt collection tactics that can affect their mental and physical health. If you know your rights under the FDCPA, you can identify when a debt collector’s actions cross the line and take the appropriate action to protect yourself.

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Debt collectors can’t tell others about your debt

Debt collectors frequently use the phone to contact consumers who owe money. However, they must follow strict guidelines when someone who isn’t the debtor answers the call.

A debt collector must give their name and ask to speak with the consumer who owes the obligation. They should not specify the name of their employer unless the individual explicitly asks for that information. Debt collectors also cannot state that a consumer owes a debt.

If the person can’t inform the debt collector about the consumer’s whereabouts, the debt collector can’t contact them again. However, if the debt collector later learns of a change in circumstances where the individual may have new information, they can reach out once more.

Debt collectors can’t communicate via postcard because anyone who sees the postcard will learn of the debtor’s financial issues. They must also refrain from including language or symbols outside an envelope indicating the letter concerns an outstanding debt.

If a consumer engages the services of an attorney for help resolving their debts, the debt collector must cease all communication with the individual. Instead, all communications must go directly to the attorney’s office.

Debt collectors must follow strict rules when communicating with you

Debt collectors must treat you respectfully when contacting you over the phone. They cannot call you at unreasonable hours, like before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in your time zone. Debt collectors can contact you at work but must cease these phone calls if your employer asks them to stop.

In addition, debt collectors cannot speak with any third parties regarding the debt you owe. That means they can’t tell your brother or grandmother that you owe money or ask your 16-year-old daughter to contact you regarding a debt. They can discuss your debt only with you, your attorney, the original creditor, and consumer reporting agencies.

You can ask a debt collector to cease communicating with you by notifying it in writing. Upon receipt of your letter, the debt collector cannot restart communication except to inform you that it’s terminating collection efforts against you or intends to invoke a specific remedy, like a debt lawsuit.

Is a debt collector harassing you for money? Make a debt collector validate your debt with our Debt Validation Letter. Check out the video below to learn more:

Debt collectors can’t harass or abuse you

Under 15 USC 1692, debt collectors cannot take actions that harass or abuse you. The law prohibits all of the following activities:

  • Threatening to use violence or other means to harm you physically, hurt your reputation, or damage your property.
  • Using obscene language to abuse or harm you.
  • Publishing your name in a list of people who don’t pay debts.
  • Advertising your debt for sale to convince you to repay it.
  • Calling you continuously throughout the day.
  • Failing to identify themselves when they contact you.

Let’s consider an example to see what an abusive debt collector might act like.

Example: Sally has an old credit card debt of $1,500. Tough Dog Collections buys the debt from her original creditor and takes action to collect the money she owes. Agents from Tough Dog Collections call Sally numerous times daily, often from different numbers. They send her mail with letters cut out from a newspaper, threatening to destroy her reputation at her employer if she doesn’t pay $1,500 in three days. The final straw comes when Tough Dog Collections publishes a notice in her neighborhood newsletter, informing all of her neighbors that she owes money for a credit card debt.

In our example, Tough Dog Collections has seriously violated Sally’s rights under the FDCPA. Sally can file a complaint against Tough Dog Collections and seek damages in compensation for its abuse and harassment.

Watch this video to learn how to settle a debt settlement lawsuit.

Debt collectors can’t use false or deceptive practices to collect an obligation

The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from pretending to be someone they’re not when contacting you. They can’t pretend to be your long-lost uncle, an old ex, a sheriff, or an attorney. They also can’t tell you they’ll take an action they don’t have the right to, like seizing your house or sending you to jail.

Debt collectors also can’t use deceptive practices to coerce you to pay a debt. For instance, they can’t tell you they’ll garnish your wages starting next week if you don’t immediately pay. They must go through the proper legal channels to obtain a wage garnishment order; they can’t arbitrarily take your income.

The FDCPA also prevents debt collectors from communicating with you via letters that look like judicial processes. If you receive a letter from a debt collector that looks like a court Summons or judgment but is not, the collector has violated the FDCPA.

15 USC 1692 protects you from unfair debt collection activities

If a debt collector won’t leave you alone or if you feel their actions harm your mental health, they may have violated 15 USC 1692. You can file a complaint against the debt collector with the FTC or sue them.

Violations carry heavy penalties of up to $1,000 for each infraction. Don’t hesitate to assert your rights; you may protect others from the same fate.

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