The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act of 1977 (FDCPA) (15 USC 1601) protects consumers from illegal or improper practices in debt collecting. Its mandates apply only to consumer debts and not to business debts. Further, they do not apply to collection efforts made directly by the creditor to whom the debt is owed. The law is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
What may be perceived as improper conduct or harassment by a stressed debtor may not in fact be illegal or improper at all under the Act. What is pro-hibited of a collection agency includes the following:
- Communicating with the debtor’s employer, neighbors, or anyone else for any reason except to ask where the debtor lives
- Informing any person that an attempt is being made to collect a debt from the debtor
- Sending postcards or mail that reveal the sender as a collection agency
- Contacting a debtor at a place of employment, if the debtor or the employer objects
- Telephoning a debtor before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
- Using obscene, profane, or threatening language
- Make the debtor’s name public as a person who fails to pay debts
- Failing to identify himself/herself as a collector; pretending to be a lawyer, law enforcement officer, or other government official
- Obtaining information from the debtor under false pretenses, e.g., taking a survey or suggesting that the debtor has committed a crime
- Contacting a debtor who has informed the collector that he or she is represented by an attorney
- Communicate in any way with a debtor who has informed the collector in writing that no more contact with the debtor is to be made