Reporting Debt Collectors That Violate the FDCPA

••• © Hero Images / Getty Images

Debt collectors have certain rules they must follow when they're collecting a debt from you. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, FDCPA, has strict guidelines about what debt collectors can and cannot do. For example, they can only call you between certain hours of the way, must inform you that they're a debt collector attempting to collect a debt, they cannot harass you, and must stop calling you after you've sent a written letter asking them to stop calling you.

Knowing Your Rights With Debt Collectors

As a consumer, it’s important that you’re aware of your rights with debt collectors, even if you don’t have any accounts that are currently in collections. You could have to deal with a debt collector at some point in the future. Debt collectors could try to get you to pay a debt you don’t owe (which happens to be a top complaint against debt collectors) or contact you to find out information about a friend or relative who does owe a debt.

It's important to keep a record of your interactions with debt collectors. Each time you receive or answer a phone call, keep a journal detailing what you talked about. You can file these notes away with any letters you sent the debt collector. If you later file a lawsuit or complaint against the debt collector, these documents will help support your claim.

What to Do If a Debt Collector Violates the FDCPA

There are several things to do if a debt collector violates your rights, for example by calling you even after you've sent a cease and desist letter. You have the right to take certain actions against a debt collector that violates the FDCPA.

The CFPB is an independent government agency responsible for enforcing laws to protects consumer rights in the financial industry. Once you've sent a complaint, the CFPB can investigate your complaint and and other complaints against that collector and penalize them for breaking the law. In some cases, consumers may be entitled to a partial refund of fees paid to a debt collector who has violated the FDPCA.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

The CFPB is the best to file a complaint about debt collection practices. If you've been scammed by a debt collector or you're receiving telemarketing calls even though you're on the Do Not Call registry, you may also file a complaint with the FTC. While the FTC doesn't respond to individual complaints, they do require companies to refund consumers if there are enough loss complaints.

File a complaint with your state's attorney general.

Many states also have laws regarding fair debt collection practices that may provide more consumer protection than the federal FDCPA. Like the CFPB, your state attorney general can take legal action against a debt collector who violates the law.

File a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

While the Better Business Bureau cannot take legal action against debt collectors who violate the FDCPA, they can help mediate disputes against debt collectors. The BBB also reports consumer complaints against businesses and can help warn other consumers about problems with particular debt collectors.

File a civil suit in your state or federal court.

The FDPCA gives you the right to sue a debt collector who has violated your rights. You're allowed to sue for up to $1,000 including damages. Consult with a consumer rights attorney to discuss your case.

What to Include in Your Complaint

When you file a complaint or lawsuit against a debt collector, have as much evidence supporting your claim as possible, including dates and times of phone calls, name of the collection agency, name of the person you spoke with, and specific details about the violation. Keep in mind that winning a lawsuit against a debt collector for violating the FDCPA doesn't erase any debt you legally owe. You may still be obligated to pay the balance unless you are suing the debt collector for collecting a fraudulent debt.