A debt collector is someone who attempts to collect a debt you owe to someone else. The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act prevent debt collectors from using unfair and deceptive practices when collecting a debt. These laws do not, however, forgive any legitimate debt you may owe.
- Debt collectors cannot harass or abuse you when attempting to collect a debt. This means a debt collector cannot threaten violence, use obscene language and profanity, or repeatedly call you with the intent to harass or annoy you.
- Debt collectors cannot make false, misleading or deceptive statements when attempting to collect a debt. Examples of this include:
- Claiming legal action has been taken against you when it hasn't;
- Threatening to garnish your wages or take your property without the legal authority to do so;
- Pretending to be an attorney or a law firm when they are not;
- Stating or implying that nonpayment of any debt will result in imprisonment or criminal charges; and,
- Falsely implying that documents are legal documents when they are not.
- There are limits on the times and places a debt collector can contact you. The FDCPA prohibits a debt collector from contacting you at work if they know your employer prohibits it. A debt collector is also prohibited from contacting you at unusual times or places if you haven't agreed to it, including contacting you before 8:00 AM and after 9:00 PM.
- The FDCPA limits a debt collector's contact with third parties. If a debt collector knows that you are represented by an attorney, they must contact your attorney rather than contacting you. If you do not have an attorney, a debt collector can only contact third parties to inquire about your home address, telephone number and place of employment. A debt collector cannot tell a third party, other than your spouse or attorney, that you owe any debts. Usually, a debt collector cannot contact a third party to verify your contact information more than once.
- Under the FDCPA, a debt collector cannot continue to contact you if you have notified the debt collector in writing that you do not want to be contacted. However, after you have given notice that you do not want to be contacted, a debt collector may contact you again to tell you that some specific action, such as a lawsuit, will be initiated against you. Keep in mind that requesting that a debt collector stop contacting you does not get rid of the debt.
- Once a debt collector has made initial contact with you in attempt to collect a debt, the FDCPA requires the debt collector to send you written notification of the amount of the debt and the creditor you owe money to within five days. The debt collector must also include a validation notice, which is a statement informing you that if you do not dispute the debt, in writing, within 30 days the debt will be assumed to be valid by the debt collector. The validation notice must also inform you that if you dispute the debt in writing within 30 days, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt and mail it to you.
- If you dispute the debt or request the name and address of the original creditor in writing within 30 days of receiving an initial validation notice, the debt collector cannot attempt to collect the debt until the debt collector mails you verification of the debt. If the debt collector mails you proof of the debt, the collector can resume collection activities.
- If you owe more than one debt, any payment you make must be applied to the debt you choose. A debt collector may not apply your payment to any debt you have disputed.
For More Information:
If you have been contacted by a debt collector who has not treated you fairly or whose activities violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act you can file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Unit.