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Illegal credit collecting practices in Washington, D.C.

Suffering from debt is a real and prevalent problem in Washington, D.C., and across the country. According to NerdWallet, the average indebted household in the United States owes $15,863 in credit card debt alone. Student loan debt averages more than $33,000 and the average debt on mortgages is at $156,584.

Not all debt is considered a negative, as having what experts call “good debt,” such as a mortgage or car payment, can actually help improve a credit score. However, falling behind on making those payments can lead to a worsened credit report. When that occurs, debt collection agencies are permitted to contact people in an attempt to secure those payments.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are certain laws by which these agencies must abide. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act governs debts linked to car loans, medical bills, credit cards and mortgages. Under the act, debt collectors are not permitted to contact people between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m., nor may they reach out to people at their place of employment once they have been alerted in writing not to do so.

The FTC points out that the following collection tactics are also against the law: 

  • Using obscene language or making threats of violence
  • Misleading debtors regarding how much they owe
  • Making false claims asserting that the debtor has broken a law or will be arrested for not paying
  • Depositing a post-dated check before the date
  • Repeatedly calling a debtor to the point of harassment

Further, debt collection agencies are not allowed to give credit reporting companies false information about debtors.

If debtors feel that a collection agency has violated the law, they should contact the Washington, D.C., Office of the Attorney General as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. In some cases, debtors have the right to sue a collector for damages related to the illegal practices.

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