Are you ready to tell your lender, “Do not call me anymore!!”? Several years ago, the ‘Do Not Call’ registry was set up to stop the harassing and unsolicited telemarketing that so pervaded the airwaves. You could (and still can) sign up on the FCC’s website and register to be placed on the ‘do not call’ list, which will put a quick stop to any such calls. There are significant penalties associated with violations, and it’s fairly easy to file a complaint without having to appear in court.
But what about when a creditor with whom you have a contractual relationship is calling? Can you put an end to those harassing calls? The simple answer is, yes, most of the time.
Under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, debt collectors must respect your wishes to communicate only through written correspondence and not over the phone if you send them a notice to that effect. Violations are subject to strict liability, meaning you don’t have to prove damages. You can recover up to $1000 per occurrence, plus attorney fees.
The key is making sure the entity calling you really falls into the category of “debt collector”. Internal employees of the original creditor who extended the credit do not count. So if you received a mortgage loan from a local credit union and employees from the loss mitigation department of that entity call you, even if you have submitted a do not call request to them, they have not violated the law. Most of the time though, loans have changed hands several times and the creditor you originally had is no longer the servicer on the debt now.
They also have to follow certain thresholds of good behavior. These include:
- Identifying themselves and notify the consumer that the communication is from a debt collector
- Providing information on the original creditor in response to a written request to that effect
- Providing a so-called “§1692g” notice allowing the consumer the opportunity to dispute the debt, and verify the debt if the consumer does exercise this right
- Calling in the hours from 8:00am to 9:00pm local time
- Not calling (i) repeatedly or continuously with the intention of annoying or harassing the recipient, (ii) at the consumer’s place of employment after being informed that this is prohibited by the employer, (iii) the consumer directly after being advised that the consumer is represented by an attorney
- Reporting accurately to the credit bureaus
- Representing accurately the debt collector’s activities, identity and intentions to pursue legal action
- Treating the consumer with respect (i.e., not using profane or abusive language)
If you are going through a short sale, bankruptcy, foreclosure, divorce or litigation, times are stressful enough. You don’t need the added harassment from a debt collector who calls you at your home or business. Knowing your rights will greatly assist you in this process, and provide at least a modicum of peace of mind.