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What bill collectors can and can’t do under the FDCPA

Once you have retained an attorney and or filed for bankruptcy, debt collectors and creditors need to back off. In 1978, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was established to create and promote best practices for debt collection, stop abusive practices by collectors, and give consumers a place to certify or dispute a claim. If you are employed, but need heed help paying your multiplying and mounting bills, a competent Chapter 13 bankruptcy attorney can help you create a plan to restructure and/or repay your debts.

More important, your attorney can get those harassing phone calls to stop by holding the bill collectors accountable for violating an automatic stay or discharge order. An attorney will contact debt collectors and let them know that any correspondence involving your debts must now be directed to the lawyer’s office. Your bankruptcy attorney can also examine any correspondence you receive from creditors for any violations of the FDCPA

In addition to the legal action your attorney will take to protect you from the harassment, there is a code of conduct, a set of rules established in the FDCPA that must be followed by creditors and debt collectors.

Do: They must identify themselves, give the name/address of the original creditor, notify you of your right to dispute the debt, provide a verification of the debt, and file a lawsuit in the proper venue (where you live or where you lived when you signed the contract).

Do not: They must not call at crazy hours, continue to call after you’ve asked them not to, call repeatedly, call you at work, talk you after they know you’ve hired an attorney, misrepresent themselves, threaten arrest, use profane or abusive language, tell other people about your debt, or contact you using an public form of media like a web site or post card.

Source: Reuters, “Is Your Debt Collector Breaking the Law?” Cynthia Hsu, March 7, 2012

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