As an Asheville bankruptcy attorney, I frequently meet with consumers who are stressed out by the incessant calls or threatening letters they are receiving about a debt. The debt collectors, if acting on behalf of the original creditor, generally must comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The Act promotes ethical business practices by debt collectors, and offers some of the strongest protections provided by any federal or state law regulating the activities of debt collectors.
The FDCPA protects a consumer from invasion of privacy, harassment, abuse, false or deceptive representations, and unfair or unconscionable collection methods. Specific prohibited debt collection acts include late night or repetitive phone calls and false threats of legal action. Very commonly debt collectors will threaten wage garnishment when not applicable, threaten a lawsuit after the Statute of Limitations (usually 3 years in North Carolina) has expired, call repeatedly (more than once a day), or threaten criminal prosecution on a civil debt. The Consumer Protection Bureau recently released its report on the most common FDCPA violations they received complaints about in 2014.
One way to stop the collection calls and letters is to write a letter to the collection company. The Federal Trade Commission explains how to issue a cease and desist letter in this pamphlet. It is illegal under federal law for a collection company to continue to try and collect after you ask them to stop.
Another way to stop harassment is sue the collection company for FDCPA violations. If I agree to take your case, you would not need to pay attorney fees, as a fee-shifting provision in the Act provides that the violating collector must pay your fees. Moreover, if you are getting collection calls, it’s a sign of bigger financial problems, and I strongly recommend contacting me for a free, initial bankruptcy consultation. In that 30-45 minute meeting, I can help you evaluate your best financial alternatives moving forward and evaluate any potential FDCPA claims you may have.