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Shireen Hormozdi Bowman works with the Agruss Law Firm on Consumer Law matters, protecting consumer rights in Georgia, Florida, Kentucky Mississippi, New York and North Carolina and is licensed to practice law in all of these states, including their federal courts.Call or Text us at 678-960-9030 or email Shireen directly to begin your FREE CASE EVALUATION: shireen@agrusslawfirm.com.

Fair Debt Collection Protections Act (FDCPA)

The Fair Debt Collection Protections Act (FDCPA) is a Federal law which was enacted in March 1978 that was designed to protect consumers by regulating debt collectors. This includes eliminating deceptive, abusive, and unfair debt collection practices and setting the rules on interactions between debt collectors—such as bill collectors, corporate collections departments, and collections agencies—and those they are seeking payment from.

The FDCPA applies to every state in the U.S. and covers the collection of mortgages, medical debts, credit card debts, and other debts related to personal, family, or household purposes. The FDCPA does not cover business debts and does not generally cover collection being conducted by the original creditor.

What Can Debt Collectors Not Do?

The FDCPA forbids aggressive and abusive practices in an attempt to collect on a debt. This includes:

  • Using obscene, profane, or abusive language
  • Using or threatening violence
  • Claiming you owe more than you actually do
  • Calling you repeatedly or contacting you at an unreasonable time (FDCPA law considers calls before 8 A.M and/or after 9 P.M. your time zone to be unreasonable)
  • Contacting you at work when your employer forbids it
  • Calling and not identifying themselves as debt collectors
  • Claiming to be an attorney if they’re not
  • Giving out false information about you
  • Claiming you will be taken to jail
  • Claiming they will garnish your wages, place a lien on your income or home, or otherwise seize your property
  • Sending papers that resemble legal paperwork
  • Adding on unauthorized fees, interest, charges, or payments
  • Contacting third-parties other than your attorney, the original creditor, or credit bureaus other than an attempt to secure contact information for you

It is important to remember that unless you have notified creditors, in writing, that you wish for them to stop contacting you, they can also contact your parents (if you are a minor), co-debtors, and/or a spouse. Once they are notified in writing of your wishes, then they are only permitted to contact you again to state that there will be no further contact. This letter does not prevent the debt collector from pursuing other legal ways to collect on the debt, however. This may include reporting negative information to credit bureaus or a lawsuit against you.

What Are Debt Collectors Required to Do?

Any debt collector that contacts you claiming that you owe a debt is required by law to tell you certain information about that debt. This includes the following:

  • The name of the creditor
  • That you can request the name and address of the original creditor if it is different from the current creditor
  • The amount you owe
  • That you have the ability to dispute the debt

Debt collectors are required to state this in their initial contact with you. If they fail to do so, they must provide you with a written notice including this information within five (5) days of the initial contact.

Protecting Your Rights

The FDCPA provides consumers with civil remedies if their rights are violated under the act. If a creditor has been harassing you over a debt, you may be entitled to monetary damages up to $1,000.00, as well as your attorney fees and costs. FDCPA violations do not excuse or eliminate the debt, but they may aid in negotiations.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), enacted in 1970, is a Federal law which protects consumers from abusive credit practices while still allowing certain entities such as employers, lenders, landlords, and insurance companies to use credit reports to determine credit risk.

Prior to 1970, consumers did not have the right or ability to know what information was listed on their credit reports. In addition, if a consumer was somehow able to learn that the information on the report was erroneous, there was no way to get that information changed and there were also no limits on how long listings could remain on the report, meaning errors could haunt someone for their life.

The FCRA controls the behavior of consumer reporting agencies (CRA)—also known as credit bureaus such as Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian—and the businesses or individuals that report information to the CRA’s. The CRA will then compile this information into your credit report. The FCRA provides rules about who can access your report, what can be reported, how long it can be reported for, and what CRA’s and/or other information providers are required to do if you dispute the information.

If there is a violation of the FCRA, a consumer has legal rights, including suing in court.

Rules of the FCRA for Credit Reporting Agencies

When CRA’s make mistakes, it can be costly for consumers. It may prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, or getting approved for a loan. Under the FCRA, CRA’s are required to do the following:

  • Grant you free access to your credit report (The FCRA allows for one free report annually from each of the top three (3) CRA’s through FTC.gov)
  • Control how long items stay on your credit report
  • Limit other companies access to your credit report
  • Give you the right to dispute inaccuracies on your credit report

There are a number of different ways an FCRA violation could occur. These include:

  • Failing to report a discharged debt in bankruptcy
  • Reporting old debts as new
  • Reporting information that is older than seven (7) years
  • Reporting a debt that was settled
  • Failing to correct any incorrect information
  • Supplying credit information even when alerted of identity theft
  • Mixing up credit information on multiple parties
  • Applying late fees to debts paid on time
  • Submitting information to a CRA that is knowingly incorrect
  • Failing to investigate a disputed debt within 30 days
  • Notifying all CRA’s that a debtor is disputing a debt
  • Failing to report the results of an investigation to the debtor

These are just a handful of the ways FCRA violations can occur. If you suspect that your rights have been violated under the FCRA, contact us to discuss your case and your options.

Disputing Credit Errors

If you have errors on your credit report, there is a three step process you should follow to dispute those inaccuracies.

1. Request a copy of your credit report-Every year, you are eligible for one free copy of your credit report from each of the three major CRA’s. You are also permitted to request a copy if a company has taken adverse action against you, you are unemployed and seeking employment, you are on welfare, or you are the victim of identity theft. This can be done by contacting annualcreditreport.com, calling 1-877-322-8228, or by visiting the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
2. Send a dispute letter-The CRA will be required to investigate your claim once they receive your dispute letter within 30 days. Information gathered must be forwarded to the reporting entity, who is then required to investigate, review, and report the decision to the CRA. If the dispute is resolved in your favor, all three CRA’s must be notified and they must update your file with the correct information. If the situation is not remedied in your favor, a note can be included in your file and any disputed information cannot be placed in your file without proper verification.
3. Post investigation-The CRA must notify you of the results of the investigation and also provide you with a copy of the updated credit report if changes were made. You have the right to request that the updated report be sent to anyone that received a copy of your credit report in the past six (6) months or if the report was used for employment purposes, you can request it be sent to potential employers that accessed it in the past two (2) years.

When Should I Contact a Lawyer?

The FTC estimates that nearly one in five consumers has inaccurate information on their credit report and depending on the type of violation that occurs, victims may be entitled to compensation for actual damages that they can prove were caused by those violations, statutory damages up to $1,000, punitive damages at the discretion of the court, and attorney fees. Under the FCRA, the costs and fees of an attorney and court are never paid for by the consumer under a fee-shift provision, instead the CRA being sued would be responsible for fees and costs, so you have nothing to lose.

Shireen Hormozdi Bowman works with the Agruss Law Firm on Consumer Law matters and protects consumer rights in Georgia, Florida, Kentucky Mississippi, New York and North Carolina and is licensed to practice law in all of these states, including their federal courts.

Call or Text us at 678-960-9030 or email Shireen directly to begin your FREE CASE EVALUATION: shireen@agrusslawfirm.com.