The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) puts restrictions on the types of mailings collection agencies and other debt collectors are permitted to send you. It also restricts the appearance of notices and how frequently you receive them. Although these provisions are in place under federal law, it doesn’t stop all debt collectors from bombarding consumers with frequent and sometimes embarrassing communications.
What Kinds of Mailings are Permitted?
It’s important to understand that the FDCPA only governs the actions of collection agencies or lawyers employed by a company or creditor to collect a debt on their behalf.
The law contains provisions to keep collectors from using “embarrassment tactics” to convince consumers to pay. These include mailing debt notices in an obvious manner, like as a post card or even within an envelope, if the outside of the envelope makes it blatantly obvious that they are attempting to collect a debt. These methods are considered harassment and are therefore illegal under the FDCPA.
There are no laws that prevent the original creditor from using these kinds of tactics, but most of the time creditors do not employ harassing behaviors. This is due in part to:
- their more reputable business model
- their understanding that harassing behaviors can get them sued, even though the FDCPA doesn’t govern their actions.
The frequency with which mailings are received can also be considered harassment, if you are being bombarded with constant notices. There are no absolute restrictions in the FDCPA about how many notices you can receive within certain time periods, but generally speaking, if you receive a notice more than once a month, the debt collector is employing harassment techniques.
Keep in mind the FDCPA doesn’t stop debt collectors from contacting you, that is, unless you send a formal notice in writing to telling them to cease communications. Until you notify the collector in writing, they can mail notices, but those notices must be sent in inconspicuous or “standard” envelopes. They cannot draw attention to the fact that it is a notice from a collection agency or is a communication sent for the purpose of collecting on a debt.
What can You do to Stop Mailings of Any Kind
There are steps you can take to stop debt collectors from sending communications to you. These include:
- Sending a formal “cease communications” notice via mail. Be sure to send it with a return receipt so you can prove the collector received the letter.
- Reporting harassing behaviors to the state Attorney General office and informing the debt collector that you’ve done so.
- Securing the assistance of an attorney in curbing debt collector harassment and debt collection activities in general.
Once you have an attorney and have informed the debt collector that you’ve hired legal representation, the collector can no longer communicate directly with you. All mailings, phone calls, and other communications must legally be communicated to you via your lawyer. The FDCPA demands this of debt collectors.