Debt Collection Lawyers in San Diego Protecting the Rights of Consumers Being Contacted By Debt Collectors in California
It is estimated that about 80% of all Americans carry some form of debt. That means 8 out of every ten people have consumer debt, on average $38,000.00 per person or more. Unfortunately, falling behind on a mortgage, credit card bills, or car loans means you may likely be dealing with endless bill collection, phone calls, and letters. Learn what your rights are as a consumer and what to do if a debt collection company is breaking the rules, and see how an attorney may be able to help.
What Should I Do if a Debt Collector contacts me?
The first thing you should do if a debt collector contacts you is to ensure they are legitimate, as there are many unscrupulous people posing as legitimate debt collectors to mislead you and commit fraud. Do not share your personal or financial information until you have verified that the debt collector contacting you is from a real business.
You should inquire about the debt collector’s identity (name, address, phone number), the total amount of the debt, including any fees and interest, and the original creditor’s name. In addition, make sure to ask for an explanation of what the debt was for, when it was incurred and whether it was owed by you or someone else. It is always best to request that information be sent to you in writing if the debt collector is making a first contact via phone call. You will have 30 days after the initial contact to dispute the debt or take any action, such as specifying how the debt collector may contact you or proving that the debt was already paid (if applicable).
What Is a Debt Collector Allowed to Do?
Debt collectors may send you notices or letters in the mail, but they must use a plain envelope that does not display any information about you or your debt. They may call you between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. unless you request them not to contact you or to only call your lawyer.
Debt collectors may call your employer, but there are restrictions on what information they can request. They can only ask for employment verification and your location information. They may also try to inquire about whether you have medical insurance if you have medical debt; however, they may only garnish your wages after winning a lawsuit against you and being authorized by the court to initiate wage garnishments.
What Are Some Actions a Debt Collector Cannot Take?
Debt collectors are not allowed to engage in harassment or abusive practices, such as threatening to arrest you, harm you, seize your property, or take any illegal action against you or your family. They cannot use improper language such as swearing and insults. Debt collectors may not call you outside the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. and may not contact you repeatedly over a short period just to annoy you.
Likewise, they cannot make false statements or represent themselves in a misleading manner by using logos, symbols, or language that may lead you to believe they are an attorney or government entity. If you have requested the debt collector to stop calling or contacting you altogether, they may not continue to call you but can still contact you to notify you that they intend to take legal action against you.
What Should I Do if a Debt Collector Calls My Employer or Relatives?
If a debt collector contacts your employer or other people, such as relatives and friends, you may request them to stop and refer them to your attorney or ask that all communications be made in writing and directed to you. When a debt collector calls your employer or others, they may not use harassing or threatening language and are restricted to only asking questions about your contact information. They must stop all calls after receiving your request – any debt collectors that insist on calling you, your relatives, or your employer after being asked to stop may be reported to the Attorney General’s office.
It is worth mentioning that a debt collector is allowed to contact your spouse. In addition, they can contact the parents or guardians of a debtor under 18 years old, the debtor’s attorney, and the appropriate credit reporting agencies.
Are There Any Laws Protecting Consumers From Illegal Debt Collection Practices?
In 2021, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new Debt Collection Rules became effective. The rule clarifies portions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, specifies how debt collectors should contact you, and establishes several rights protecting consumers in debt collection.
California consumers have certain rights when dealing with debt collectors. For example, you have the right to ask a debt collector to stop all communications. While they must stop contacting you after receiving the request, the debt does not go away, and they may still take legal action against you. You also have the right to be treated respectfully without being subjected to threats or harassment. You have the right to be free from misleading or false representations, which means a debt collector may not lie to you, saying they will send you to jail or lead you to believe they represent an attorney or government agency. You also have the right to request verification of the debt in order to confirm that the debt is accurate and belongs to you. Victims of identity theft have the right to be free from debt collection activities for any debt resulting from identity theft. You also have the right to dispute an alleged debt or any inaccurate information added to your credit report. Finally, you have the right to report non-compliant debt collectors to the California Attorney General’s Office, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
When Should I Contact a Debt Collection Attorney?
A debt collection attorney can provide valuable services and advice to anyone dealing with a debt collector who may be acting illegally. If you are being harassed or threatened by a debt collector or believe the debt is inaccurate, an attorney can take over all communications with the debt collector and take proper steps to remedy the situation. Likewise, contacting a debt collection lawyer as soon as possible is extremely important if you have been notified that a debt collector has initiated a lawsuit against you.
At Khosroabadi & Hill, our attorneys help clients in San Diego and surrounding areas to deal with debt collectors, protecting the interests and rights of our clients and representing them in court when necessary. If you have problems with a debt collector or need legal help, contact our firm at 858-240-2093 to see how we can help you.