There are laws that protect individuals from creditor harassment. There are state laws and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that says creditors can’t do certain things to consumers, such as threaten them.
Here are some things that you need to know when it comes to creditors collecting a debt:
- Collections agencies may contact you between the hours of 8 am and 9pm.
- Collectors cannot contact you at work if they have knowledge that your employer prohibits such contact.
- Collections agencies may try and contact other people to find out where you live or work, but they can’t tell these individuals that you owe money. They can’t even say that they work for a collection agency.
- If you have an attorney, that is the only person that collectors can contact.
So what are your rights when you have a collections agency attempting to collect a debt?
- You can notify the collector in writing that you want them to stop calling or writing to you. Once they get the letter, they can only tell you that they are going to stop the efforts or they may inform you of the legal remedies they intent to use. Just because you stop collections doesn’t mean that they can’t take the matter to court.
- You can dispute that you owe all or part of the debt and ask for the name and address of the creditor to be verified. Sometimes collections documents don’t say who the original creditor was. When you ask for the debt to be verified, the collector must halt collection efforts until they are able to verify that you owe the debt. If they can’t verify in 30 days, then they can’t collect.
What do the laws keep debt collectors from doing?
- Debt collectors cannot abuse or harass you. They can’t swear at you or cause you any sort of harm via threat or annoyance. They also can’t publicize your name as someone who won’t pay their debts.
- They can’t mislead you. In other words, they are not allowed to use misleading statements to get you to pay a debt. They can’t tell you that you owe a different amount than you owe and they can’t call you without telling you who they really are.
- They can’t use unfair means to collect a debt. If you post-date a check, they can’t deposit prematurely. They can’t deceive you into paying for things you can’t owe or threaten to take your property unless the court says they can.
What creditors can do is get a court order to garnish your wages or bank account. There are protections in place to protect you, such as not being able to garnish more than 25% of your net wages. They also can’t take wages for six months after the receipt of public assistance based on need. If you have to take Emergency Assistance, help from the Family Investment Program, Medical Assistance, must take part in the Work First Program, or you need SSI or Energy Assistance, your wages can’t be garnished. If public assistance money is deposited into a bank account, that money cannot be garnished for 60 days.
If a creditor violates the law, you can talk to your consumer rights attorney and/or speak to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office or the Minnesota Department of Commerce.