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How to File an FDCPA Complaint Against Your Debt Collector (Ultimate Guide)

George Simons | November 18, 2022

Summary: If a debt collector has violated the FDCPA when trying to collect a debt from you, there is a good chance you could receive compensation. File a complaint with the CFPB, FTC, and your state's attorney general to report a debt collector's FDCPA violations. Use SoloSuit to fight off debt collectors before, during, and even after a lawsuit has been filed against you.

Is someone trying to collect a debt from you? Are you trying to get them to stop? Do you think you can file an FDCPA complaint against them?

If so, then you've come to the right place! Because we're going to show you exactly how to fight debt collectors by filing an FDCPA complaint against them.

What violations of the FDCPA are grounds for an FDCPA complaint?

So, you've found yourself in debt. And not just in debt, but people are now trying to collect that debt from you. They might be calling your house, cell, or work numbers. They might be sending you letters. They could be using strong or aggressive language to try and make you pay.

But debt collecting is actually a tricky business for debt collectors. You see, there are laws that make debt collectors do certain things, and laws that stop them from doing certain things. When someone is trying to collect a debt from you, it's important to know what the law says, and how you can use your knowledge about those violations to your advantage.

This article is going to deal specifically with the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, even though there might be more specific laws in some places. Additionally, it is important to note at the outset, that the FDCPA only applies to third-party debt collectors, not to the original lender. So if the person doing the collecting is the same person that did the loaning, you may need to look for a solution other than the FDCPA.

Now, the first place to start is with the dos and don'ts.

There are certain things that debt collectors have to do in the course of collecting a debt, and there are certain things that they are prevented from doing while collecting a debt. We'll go through each one, with a small amount of detail.

If you don't like lists, then I recommend you look away now. For those still reading, we will proceed carefully.

Debt collectors must do these things

First, as promised, the short list of things that debt collectors MUST do when they contact you:

  • Tell you they are attempting to collect a debt
  • Tell you that any information you tell them will be used for the purpose of collecting your debt; and
  • Tell you their name, as well as the name of the agency they work for

There, that was painless. But now let's look at the don'ts. This list is a little more intensive than the last. There are rules, exceptions, and exceptions to those exceptions, so buckle up.

Collectors cannot do these things

A list of things that debt collectors MUST NOT do when they try to collect your debt:

  • Contact you at an unusual or inconvenient time or place, generally before 8:00AM or after 9:00PM without your permission.
  • Call you at work if they know that your boss does not allow debt collection calls at work.
  • Contact third-parties about your debt. In other words, they cannot call someone other than you about your debt.
  • Threaten to use violence, or to harm you or another person's reputation
  • Use obscene, profane, or abusive language
  • Publish your name as someone who doesn't pay bills
  • List your debt for sale to the public
  • Call repeatedly
  • Claim to be a law enforcement agency
  • Lie about the amount you owe
  • Claim to be an attorney
  • Threaten to do things that they don't actually intend to do
  • Use a fake business name
  • Add fees and interest that weren't allowed by the original agreement

In regards to not contacting third parties about your debt, there are some exceptions, and this is where the fun begins. Debt collectors can contact:

  • Your attorney, if you have one. In fact, they must contact your attorney if they know you have one.
  • A credit reporting agency
  • The original creditor
  • And unless you've asked them to stop contacting you, they may contact co-debtors, your parents (if you're a minor), and your spouse

However, if they are trying to find you, they actually can contact third-parties, but they can't

  • Tell someone who their employer is, unless asked
  • Say that you owe a debt; or
  • Contact the third-party more than once, unless they are asked to do so by the person, or they think the person gave them incorrect information when the person had the correct information

Finally, they cannot send postcards or other insecure means of communication. The purpose of this rule is to make it so that someone who simply sees your mail won't know about your debt.

There you go! Perhaps slightly more painful than the “must section.” But luckily for you, the internet has many answers.

Now, let’s look at an example.

Example: Amy, who is from Utah, feels like she’s being harassed by debt collectors with LVNV Funding. They have called her before dawn, contacted her family members and disclosed personal information regarding her debt, and some of the things they’ve told her over the phone have been borderline abusive. Amy decides to record her phone calls with the collectors, which is legal in Utah, in order to catch them in the act. Amy does some research online and decides she should report LVNV Funding for violating the FDCPA. When LVNV Funding sues Amy, she files a counterclaim against them for their FDCPA violations. At the end of the day, LVNV Funding withdraws their lawsuit and agrees to leave Amy alone and pay the court’s order for damages cause.

Send a Debt Validation Letter to avoid a debt collection lawsuit

When debt collectors come after you, one of your first lines of defense is sending a Debt Validation Letter. This is a formal request that the collector validate your debt, including the exact amount, proof of your responsibility for the debt, and proof that they have the rights to collect on it.

Many debt collectors have outdated or incorrect information regarding the debt accounts they are trying to collect. Requesting a formal debt validation forces them to prove their claims are legitimate before they can proceed.

Sending a Debt Validation Letter is a great way to avoid a debt lawsuit, and it’s also a great way to get collectors off your back. If they cannot validate the debt, they’ll most likely give up on trying to contact you.

Let’s consider another example.

Example: Midland Credit Management debt collectors keep calling Mark, making him feel imprisoned by his phone. Mark uses SoloSuit to send them a Debt Validation Letter, requesting that they validate the debt before they continue contacting him. After some investigating, the collectors figure out that they don’t have the proper documentation needed to collect the debt and validate it. They cease communications, and Mark feels like a free man again.

Learn more about how a Debt Validation Letter can help you:

Not sued yet?

Use our Debt Validation Letter.

Out Debt Validation Letter is the best way to respond to a collection letter. Many debt collectors will simply give up after receiving it.

Let's Do It

What you can do about an FDCPA Complaint

And now, for the part you've been waiting for; that place where the rubber meets the road; the answer to the age old question: what can you do about it?

If a debt collector has violated the FDCPA, either by failing to do something they must or by doing something they cannot do, then they could be in serious trouble. You're the one to get them in that trouble and the one who's going to benefit from it.

Next, we'll show you how.

Pro tip: One of the keys to being able to win your case is going to be keeping good records. You should keep a log of every time they try to contact you, who they are, what they say and of every time you have an interaction with them and what you say. This information could be key to winning your case.

How do I report FDCPA violations?

Sue debt collectors for FDCPA violations

Perhaps the first option most people think of is getting a lawyer and going to court. There are pros and cons to getting a lawyer. It can be an effective route, but it means that you will have to talk to an attorney (something that most people hope to avoid during their lifetime) as well as having to pay them (also something most people want to avoid).

However, it also means that you won't have to navigate this whole big process by yourself. It can be nice to have help from someone who knows what's going on and what to expect.

If you choose to go forward without an attorney, just know that filing your own lawsuit can get tricky. Much of the process is going to depend on what state you're in, and some things can even change depending on which court you go to in your state. To find a court in your state and to look into their rules use this link.

Generally, you're going to have to do some basic things though. Often times courts will provide templates for pro se litigants (that means people who sue without using a lawyer). You'll need to be able to say exactly what happened. Courts like detail, so this is where it comes in handy to have kept a log of every time they tried to contact you, what was said in those contacts, when they happened, and what happened after those calls.

Be ready to give answers to questions like:

  • who contacted you?
  • what is their address?
  • do you owe them money?
  • how much?
  • do you have a contract with them?
  • when was the contract made?
  • have either of you violated the contract?
  • what did they say to you?
  • has anything bad happened to you because they contacted you?

So you can see that it becomes a pretty intense process. SoloSuit can connect you with one of our attorneys.

How do I file a complaint against a debt collector?

If you feel like you’ve been treated unfairly by a debt collector, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or your state’s attorney general.

Below, we break down each of these methods and provide you with links to appropriate pages for submitting an online complaint.

File an FDCPA Complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The CFPB is a government agency that protects consumers against “unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices and takes action against companies that break the law.” The CFPB deals with thousands of debt collection complaints a month.

The CFPB can help you file a complaint; they have an assortment of tools. They usually hear back from companies in about 15 days, and 97% of consumers hear back in a timely manner.

You can report to the CFPB here.

File an FDCPA Complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

The FTC is also a government agency that deals with many areas of trade in the United States, including fair debt collection. And while you can file a complaint with them, unlike the CFPB, they won't work with you to get it resolved. The FTC is more of a big picture agency. They bring big cases against companies.

(The FTC has a nice little FAQ page about debt collection available for your perusal.)

You can report to the FTC here.

File a Complaint with the State Attorney General

As was mentioned earlier, this article is mostly focused on remedies under the FDCPA, but states might have specific laws governing debt collection. For example, see Texas.

And while you're not going to find any specifics on those laws in this article, it still might be a good idea to check in with your state Attorney General.

If you don't feel comfortable with the Attorney General, you might think about the Attorney Captain instead . . . just saying.

You can find out who the Attorney General is in your state right here.

Report the debt collection agency to the Better Business Bureau

A BBB is not a government agency. They are private organizations that are devoted to making markets work better. As part of this goal, they offer information on businesses and the law.

BBBs offer mediation (not to be confused with medication, which is offered by doctors and pharmacists) and can solve most disputes in this way. They also offer binding arbitration as an alternative to going to court.

In addition, BBBs will also report unfair business practices to law enforcement and appropriate government agencies.

You can report to the Better Business Bureau here.

Potential damages for FDCPA violations

Once you've established that the debt collector has violated the FDCPA, you now qualify for relief! This is great news . . . in the sense that you qualify, not in the sense that you're being harassed. That is not good news.

According to the FDCPA, §813 states:

“Except as otherwise provided by this section, any debt collector who fails to comply with any provision of this subchapter with respect to any person is liable to such person in an amount equal to the sum of –

(1) any actual damage sustained by such person as a result of such failure;
(2) (A) in the case of any action by an individual, such additional damages as the court may allow, but not exceeding $1,000; or
(3) in the case of any successful action to enforce the foregoing liability, the costs of the action, together with a reasonable attorney's fee as determined by the court. On a finding by the court that an action under this section was brought in bad faith and for the purpose of harassment, the court may award to the defendant attorney's fees reasonable in relation to the work expended and costs.”

So, in other words, here are some things you may qualify for as a result of their illegal actions:

You could potentially get $1,000 just because they violated the law. You could also be reimbursed for physical and emotional distress. They might have to pay your lost wages, or if your wages were garnished. They might also have to pay your attorney's fees and costs. And you also might get an order from the court telling them to stop contacting you.

Other people, like your spouse, parents, or co-workers might also be able to sue if they were negatively affected by the collector's actions.

Key takeaways on FDCPA violations reporting

So if you've found yourself in hot water when it comes to racking up some debts, then it's time to buckle down and start paying attention so you can avoid paying for something you shouldn't have to.

Noticing FDCPA violations can be tricky, and filing an FDCPA complaint can be even trickier. But hopefully this article has given you a good place to start in your quest for justice under the FDCPA.

If you need help responding to a debt collection claim through a court, check out this article by SoloSuit. They will help you fill out the proper documents in the proper ways, and can even have an attorney review the documents and submit them to the court for you if you want.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.

You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

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What are some of the most common FDCPA complaints?

In order, they are:

  • Attempting to collect a debt that is not owed
  • Written notification about debt
  • Communication tactics
  • Took, or threatened, negative legal action
  • False statements
  • Threatened to share information with someone they shouldn't have

How long can someone try to collect a debt against me?

There are a lot of factors that go into this.

Debts are subject to what's called a Statute of Limitations. The exact amount of time will depend on which state you're in, but typically is in the 3-6 year range. But like we said, there are a lot of little rules that can change this, so it's hard to give a general rule.

At the same time, a debt will typically stay on your credit report for approximately 7 years.

>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit. (We can help you in all 50 states.)

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