Collection agencies that collect credit card debts sometimes engage in harrassing and illegal behavior, making debtors' lives miserable. Fortunately, the federal Fair Debt Collections Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from engaging in many kinds of abusive or deceptive activities. It pays to learn what collectors cannot do, so that you can protect yourself.
The FDCPA only applies to debt collectors, not creditors trying to collect their own debts. However, it does apply to lawyers who regularly collect debts and creditors that collect debts under a different name. Some states have laws that apply to creditors collecting their own debts.
Here are some common collection practices used by collection agencies that are illegal under the FDCPA.
If a collector violates the law, you can complain to the original creditor, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov), contact your state consumer protection office, or even sue the collector in Small Claims Court to recover penalties and damages. The FDCPA provides for penalties of up to $1,000 per violation, even if you didn't suffer damages. To learn more about bringing an action in Small Claims Court, check out Nolo's free articles, FAQs, and state law charts in its Small Claims Court & Lawsuits area.