Maybe you’re drowning in debt from medical bills and maxed out credit cards and now you’re experiencing debt collectors calling you at work. This may raise the question: can a debt collector call you at work? The short answer is yes, but only if you allow the debt collector to do so. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers from harassment and other abusive debt collection practices. So if you specifically tell debt collectors to stop calling you at work about your medical bills and credit card bills, they have to stop. Below, the legal team at Eric Wilson Law explains what to do if a debt collector is calling you at work, and when you could possibly sue over FDCPA violations.
If you’re in major financial distress due to debt, poor credit report and credit score, wage garnishment, foreclosures, repossessions, and more, there is hope. Eric Wilson has more than 25 years of experience in helping his clients achieve a happy, stress-free life, free from financial woes. Call 205-349-1280 to schedule a free consultation with our legal team today.
What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law, passed in 1977, that outlaws abusive debt collection practices. The FDCPA limits how, when, and where third party debt collectors contact their debtors. Debtors can definitely sue debt collectors who engage in unfair or deceptive acts laid out by the FDCPA.
What is the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA)?
The Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA), passed in 1914, basically established the Federal Trade Commission. Similarly to the FDCPA, the FTCA prohibits creditors from committing unfair or deceptive acts relating to old debt.
Does the FDCPA Apply to Creditors and Debt Buyers?
The FDCPA generally doesn’t apply to creditors, and it may or may not apply to debt buyers. This is important to remember if you plan to file a complaint or even potentially sue for FDCPA violations.
Debt buyers buy old credit accounts from creditors and then collect money on them. They do not provide loans or credits to anyone like creditors do. Recent court cases – such as Henson et al. v. Santander Consumer USA Inc. in 2017 – decided that debt buyers don’t meet the FDCPA’s legal definition of a debt collector. The legal definition of a debt collector is this:
“Any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another.”
Debt buyers may or may not fall under this definition. If you’re having trouble with a debt buyer or a creditor calling you at work, you should speak with Eric Wilson before taking any sort of legal action. He can tell you whether or not the creditor or debt buyer fits into this definition and if they are committing FDCPA violations.
Where, When, and How Debt Collectors Can Call You
So – can a debt collector call you at work? The answer is yes, but they cannot call you at work if you specifically tell them to stop OR if they have reason to know that they shouldn’t call your work for whatever reason.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), debt collectors can contact debtors after 8 a.m. and before 9 p.m. on any given day. This means that workplace collection calls can take place, because most people work sometime within those hours. If a debtor wants a debt collector to communicate with them outside of those hours, then they must specifically request that.
Debt collectors are legally allowed to contact a debtor’s spouse, family members, neighbors, etc. with the principal purpose of requesting the debtor’s contact information. But they can only call these people once. They cannot call these people and tell them any information about the debtor’s collection accounts or debts.
Debt collectors are also legally allowed to contact debtors through all means of digital communication such as phone calls, emails, and texts. They can also contact people through letters. If a debtor is working with an attorney, then all debt collector contacts must happen through the attorney.
Where, When, and How Debt Collectors CAN’T Call You
Debt collectors cannot contact debtors at unreasonable hours – such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. Debt collectors also cannot annoy, harass, or alarm debtors, no matter how bad their debt situation is. This means they can’t use profane language, threats, or false information in order to get someone to pay back their debt. Debt collectors are also not allowed to resort to physical violence.
If debt collectors contact someone at work, they cannot tell employers or co-workers that they are calling to collect debts. If a debtor is not allowed to receive personal calls at work, then they can tell the debt collector this. If a debtor tells a debt collector to stop calling them at work for any reason, then they must obey.
What To Do if a Debt Collector is Calling You at Work
If a debt collector calls at work, tell them over the phone to stop calling you. Then, send a letter requesting no more debt collector contact at your work. If you don’t know where to begin with a written request like this, take a look at one of the sample letters that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides.
Within 5 days of receiving a written notice about stopping workplace collection calls, the debt collector must send something called a validation notice. This validation notice will likely include:
- The amount of debt owed,
- The name of the original creditor to whom the debt is owed (such as a credit card company, for example),
- A statement about how all debts must be paid unless they are disputed within 30 days,
- A statement confirming that the debt collector will verify all debts especially if the debtor asks for such verification,
- And a statement saying that the debtor can request more information about the original creditor if they desire to do so.
It’s important to remember that telling a debt collector that they can no longer contact you doesn’t mean you no longer have debt. You will still have to find a way to pay the debt. If a debt collector sues you and obtains a judgment against you over unpaid debt, you will be in even more financial distress.
Also, it’s important to take up the offer (listed in the validation notice) for more information about the original creditor and the type of debt you owe. The more information you have, the better. Tuscaloosa bankruptcy lawyer Eric Wilson can help you find the best debt relief option, negotiate and communicate with your debt collector, and protect your legal rights.
Can You Sue if a Debt Collector Calls You At Work Even After You Have Told Them To Stop?
Yes. If a debt collector continues to contact you at work, you have grounds to take legal action in state or federal court. You can sue them over direct violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you have a strong enough case, you can potentially receive actual damages.
It’s important to remember that you have a specific time limit for filing a lawsuit, if that’s what you want to do. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, debtors have 1 year from the date of the violation to sue their debt collector.
If you want to sue your debt collector for damages, call Tuscaloosa bankruptcy lawyer Eric Wilson first. He will help you determine if you have a strong case. He will also help you gather sufficient evidence to prove that the debt collector violated your rights under the FDCPA. Lastly, he will protect your rights and help you achieve the best case outcome possible.
Damages for Abusive Debt Collection Practices
If you successfully sue an abusive debt collector, you could recover financial compensation for the following types of damages:
- Emotional distress
- Physical distress (if your debt collector resorted to physical violence)
- Lost wages (if your debt collector’s constant calls to your work caused you to miss work or get fired)
- Wage garnishment recovery (if an abusive debt collector took money out of your paycheck in order to repay your debt)
- Statutory damages of up to $1,000 per FDCPA violation
- Attorney fees and court costs
Call a Tuscaloosa Bankruptcy Lawyer at Eric Wilson Law Today
If you’re drowning in debt and/or facing harassment from your debt collectors, you need to seek out legal counsel. Tuscaloosa bankruptcy lawyer Eric Wilson can not only help you get your debt under control, but he can also help you determine whether or not you have grounds to pursue legal action against abusive debt collectors. Call 205-349-1280 to schedule a free consultation with our top-notch legal team today.