Burr Ridge, Illinois Debt Collection Abuse Attorney

At Modestas Law, we help consumers who suffer from abusive debt collection practices that violate the the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, often referred to as the "FDCPA." If a debt collector violates the act, the consumer can sue the debt collector for damages in court.

Understanding the key provisions of the federal law will enable you to protect yourself and your family from unscrupulous debt collectors.

Fair Debt Collection Practices Act / FDCPA

The FDCPA is a federal law designed to eliminate abusive debt collection practices, promote fair debt collection, and provide an avenue for consumers to dispute and obtain verification of debt claims. The Act imposes specific requirements and limitations on debt collector practices.

Applicability of the FDCPA

The FDCPA applies only to debt collectors. It does not apply to the original creditor. A debt collector is a person or business that regularly collects or attempts to collect consumer debts owed to another person or business.

Sometimes debt collectors or debt collector agencies are hired by a company or business to collect delinquent debts owed to the business. The United States Supreme Court determined that the term debt collector does not include companies that buy defaulted loans from another lender. Those companies cannot be sued under the FDCPA.

The Act also only applies to consumer debt. The FDCPA definitions of “consumer” and “debt” restrict coverage of the law to personal, family, or household transactions. Business debts (whether owed by a person or a business) are not covered.

Required and Prohibited Debt Collector Practices

The FDCPA sets out specific requirements that apply to consumer debt collection activities. There are also a number of practices that are prohibited under the FDCPA. The most important restrictions and prohibitions fall into several different categories:

  • Communications with the consumer
  • Communications with others
  • Harassment or abuse
  • False or misleading representations
  • Unfair practices

Communications with the Consumer

There are specific rules that a debt collector must follow in contacting you about a consumer debt. In the initial contact, the debt collector must advise you that he or she is attempting to collect a debt and tell you that any information you provide will be used for that purpose. In addition, within five days of that first contact, the collector is required to send confirming written correspondence to your home address, identifying the amount due, the collector, and the original creditor. The correspondence must also advise you that you can dispute the debt and have 30 days to demand that the collector validate the debt.

You can stop a debt collector from calling you by writing a letter to the agency telling them to stop contacting you. Once they receive the letter, the agency may not contact you again except to notify you that a specific action will be taken. In addition, within 30 days, you can send a letter stating that you do not owe the debt or want verification. In that case, the collection agency can resume contacting you only after they send you proof of the debt.

In addition, a debt collector is prohibited from contacting you in the following circumstances:

  • Calls before 8:00am and after 9:00pm are not permitted, unless you agree to talk with the collector at that time.
  • If the collector knows or should know you are represented by an attorney, the collector is prohibited from contacting you directly.
  • If you advise the collector that your employer prohibits you from receiving calls at work, the collector may not call you there.

Communications with Others

Generally, a debt collector cannot contact other people, referred to as “third parties,” about your debt. There are some exceptions. The collection agency may contact:

  • Your attorney (if you are represented by counsel), a credit reporting agency, and the original creditor
  • Your spouse; your parents, but only if you are a minor; and any co-debtors, unless you have sent a letter telling the agency to stop contacting you
  • Third parties for the sole purpose of ascertaining your whereabouts

If other people are contacted by a debt collector in an attempt to locate you, there are specific requirements and prohibitions:

  • If the collector knows you are represented by an attorney, no third parties may be contacted.
  • In contacting another person, the collector must state his or her name and indicate that he or she is seeking location information about you. He or she cannot identify his or her employer unless asked and is not allowed to say that you owe a debt.
  • The collector cannot contact a third party more than once, unless the third party requests or the collector believes the earlier response was wrong or incomplete.

Harassment or Abuse

A debt collector is prohibited from any conduct intended to harass, oppress, or abuse the debtor. Specifically, the collector cannot:

  • Call you repeatedly, continuously, or an unreasonable number of times
  • Use or threaten violence or harm to you, another person, or your or another person’s reputation or property
  • Use obscene, profane, or abusive language
  • Publish your name on a “bad debt” list
  • List your debt for sale to the public

False or Misleading Representations

A debt collector cannot lie, mislead you, or misrepresent himself or herself. Specifically, the collector cannot:

  • Claim to be an attorney, law enforcement officer, government agent, or consumer reporting agent
  • Falsely represent the amount of a debt
  • Threaten arrest or other legal action that is not intended or permitted
  • Use any false representation or deceptive means to attempt to collect a debt or obtain information about a consumer
  • Fail to make required disclosures, including the identity of the collection agency and the purpose of the contact, as well as notifying the consumer of the right to dispute a debt

Unfair Practices

A debt collection agency cannot use any unfair or outrageous methods to attempt to collect a debt. Prohibited conduct includes:

  • Adding interest, fees, or charges not authorized in the original debt agreement or by state law
  • Soliciting or accepting postdated checks without meeting specific requirements
  • Concealing the purpose of communication, thereby causing the consumer to incur costs, such as making collect calls
  • Take or threaten to repossess property, when there is no intention or legal right to do so

Enforcement: Damages and Remedies for Violations

The Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are the federal government agencies responsible for administrative enforcement of the FDCPA. In addition, if a debt collector violates any part of the FDCPA in attempting to collect a debt that is covered by the Act, you can file a lawsuit to recover damages in state or federal court. Recoverable monetary damages can include:

  • Actual damages suffered
  • Statutory damage up to $1000
  • Attorney’s fees and court costs

Depending on the circumstances, actual damages can include items such as:

  • Cost of treatment and damages for physical, health-related damage caused by the debt collector
  • Emotional distress from damage to relationships, invasion of privacy, and stress caused by the collector
  • Lost wages, if the collector has disrupted your employment

In addition, a court can also issue injunctive relief, which orders a debt collector to stop contacting you and your family, friends, work, and others by phone or mail or other means.

Contact a Burr Ridge, Illinois Attorney for Debt Collection Abuse

If you are dealing with an unscrupulous debt collector, talk with our attorney for abusive debt collector practices about whether you can bring a lawsuit to recover damages. If you are in Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, or Will County, Modestas Law can help you. Contact us to schedule an initial consultation.

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