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Threatening Consumers Is Prohibited by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

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The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) makes many forms of threats illegal for debt collectors to make. Some of these are obvious, and some are a little more subtle.

Debt Collectors Cannot Threaten Actions They Don't Intend to Take

Debt collectors are not allowed to threaten to do anything to you that they do not intend to take or that they cannot, for any reason, take. That includes violence, obviously, but also other, possibly legitimate acts like filing suit or garnishing your wages--if the debt collector can't do it.

Threats of Violence Are Prohibited by the FDCPA

Debt collectors may not use violence or the threat of violence towards a consumer or any other person in the collection of a debt, and this includes violence or harm to property. 1692d(A)(1). Of course these types of threats can also be criminal violations, but the FDCPA makes it easier to show, has a lower burden of what you must prove to establish liability, and includes a right to attorneys fees if you win. On the other hand, the penalties are lower.

Combining Remedies

This combination of circumstances: easier burden of proof, right to attorneys fees, and lower penalties would generally mean that you would allege both the violations of the FDCPA and the other laws, too. FDCPA claims do not preempt other claims: they are in addition.

Particular Acts Prohibited by the FDCPA

Some kinds of threats are pretty much only illegal in the debt collection context because they amount to a form of harassment. The FDCPA makes it illegal for a debt collector to threaten to take any kind of action they are not legally empowered to take, or that they do not intend to. 1692e(5). This includes the threat of filing a lawsuit by someone who cannot do so, or who has no intention of doing so. So, for example, if a debt collector threatens you with suit but then sells the debt to someone else instead, this might give rise to a claim against it.

Collectors may not threaten to sell the debt elsewhere and imply that doing so would deprive the consumer of any rights or remedies.

A Biggie

One thing I frequently hear from consumers is a fear that non-payment is some sort of crime and that they will be reported to the police. Owing money and not paying is not a crime (except in very limited circumstances). For a debt collector to suggest that it is or threaten to report or otherwise act in a way to disgrace the consumer violates the FDCPA. 1692e(7).

Protect Your Rights


If you are being contacted by debt collectors, you need to be alert to protect your rights. These calls are often a prelude to their suing you. You might consider membership with our site, which gets you our ecourses for free, plus gives you many other benefits.Check out some of our e-courses. Or consider our prepaid legal plan to protect you from future possible litigation. With that, if you get sued, you'll get a lawyer to defend you for free.

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