Question

How Do I Know If A California Debt Collector is Breaking The Law?

Todd M. Friedman

Answered by:
Todd M. Friedman

Located in Woodland Hills, CA

Todd M. Friedman - Consumer Law - Super Lawyers

Answered by: Todd M. Friedman


Woodland Hills, CA
Phone: 424-278-9125
Fax: 866-633-0228

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Answer

In general, if you feel like a debt collector has taken an action that may be against the law, then it’s worth your time to check with a lawyer to find out. If it turns out the debt collector has done something wrong, you may be owed compensation.

 Some common examples of the kinds of actions that may be considered illegal under the law include:

  • Disclosing your debt to a third party that is not your spouse
  • Excessive numbers of calls in a single day
  • Calling you at phone numbers you have asked them not to call
  • Calling you at work
  • Collecting more than the amount that you owe
  • Reporting incorrect debt information
  • Threatening to sue or garnish your wages when they don’t have the legal right or intention
  • Calling you a liar or verbally harassing you

This is just a sample of the kind of actions a debt collector can take that is in violation of Fair Debt Collection Practices. The only way to know for sure is to speak with a lawyer.

Question: How often does this happen?

Answer: Illegal debt practices have become slightly less common with the enforcement of more robust consumer laws. It certainly still happens, but there are fewer horror stories than there used to be. Many of the worst violators have gone out of business.

That said, there are still debt collectors that will push the line if they think they can get away with it. It may not be as common, but it certainly hasn’t stopped.

Question: What if my debt hasn’t been sent to a collection agency yet?

Answer: There are two sets of laws. One covers debt collection businesses, which are hired by companies to try and collect on an outstanding debt. The other law covers the original creditor. If you have a hospital bill, for example, there is one law covering how the hospital can try to collect the debt and a second law covering how a collection agency hired by the hospital must act.

In general, though, the two laws are very similar in California, and a violation of one tends to be a violation of the other. In fact, more of our cases these days tend to be against original creditors instead of third-party agencies.

Question: What can I do if I think I’m being treated illegally?

Answer: The best answer to this is to keep a written record of everything. The better you do at keeping track of dates, times and notes about the things that happened on a call, the better chance you have of proving your case. Additionally, you should not get rid of the phone you’re getting the calls on.

The next step is to call a lawyer and find out if you have a case.

We know that you might be hesitant to call a lawyer – it might seem expensive. But you should know that the laws covering fair debt collection usually require the collectors to pay the legal fees of the consumer when they are found in violation.

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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