Debt collection agencies have a job to collect money from individuals who owe companies or organizations that they haven’t paid. However, they may do so using abusive, harassing, or threatening tactics to try to force debtors to make a payment, even if they can’t afford it. Fortunately, there are a number of debt collection laws that protect consumers from unfair or unscrupulous collection actions, as well as debt collection scams.
Here’s what you should understand about unfair debt collection and what your legal options may be if you believe you or a loved one are being harassed, abused, or otherwise intimidated by a debt collector.
The Fair Debt Collection Act, or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), is a set of federal laws that govern the actions of third-party debt collection agencies. These laws restrict how debt collectors can communicate with debtors, including when contact can be made with debtors and how often. It also includes other prohibited actions, such as using abusive language or making threats against a debtor.
Violation of the FDCPA can open the door for a lawsuit against the debt collection agency as well as the individual employee who harassed or harmed you in their attempt to collect the debt. If you bring legal action against them, a judge may order them to compensate you for financial and emotional damages, including attorney fees.
There are many ways in which debt collection laws regulated by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protect consumers, such as:
One way consumers are protected is by what is known as a statute of limitations. This means after a certain period of time, collection action may no longer be taken against you.
In Massachusetts, the statute of limitation is six years, regardless of the type of debt you incurred.
In New Hampshire, the length of the statute of limitations depends on the type of debt. For example, open accounts and contracts have a statute of limitations in New Hampshire of three years. Negotiable instruments and notes have a statute of limitation of six years, while judgments, mortgages, and contracts under seal have a statute of limitations of 20 years.
There are a number of actions debt collectors are restricted against, including but not limited to:
You can dispute debts that you owe on your own, usually by contacting the credit bureau the debt collector reported to and letting them know you do not agree with the debt. You can request documentation that proves you owe the debt, and often, these records aren’t available or cannot be found, resulting in the dismissal of that account. That said, this process can be challenging and is better facilitated with the help of an experienced New Hampshire or Massachusetts unfair debt collection attorney.
A Massachusetts or New Hampshire unfair debt collection attorney can help you deal with unscrupulous creditors in a few different ways, like:
Your attorney may be able to negotiate a deal with the debt collection agency that allows you to make affordable payments in exchange for no longer being called, sent letters, or otherwise contacted by the debt collection agency.
If you believe a collection agency that has contacted you has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, your attorney can remind them of the regulations they are under and hold them accountable for any violations.
Filing bankruptcy may be a viable option to stop aggressive collections activity by inducing what is called an automatic stay. This means that as soon as you file for bankruptcy, creditors and debt collection agencies may no longer contact you. An attorney can help you decide if the benefit of an automatic stay and bankruptcy is right for you.
If you or someone you love are the victim of aggressive, harassing, or unfair debt collection practices, remember that you have rights under the FDCPA. It’s important that you act as quickly as possible to get help protecting those rights. Contact us today to book your consultation at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.