How to Stop Creditor Harassment in Florida?
Insofar as collectors are concerned, you are not required…
Every State has laws that specify your rights as a consumer when it comes to people who contact you to demand collection of debts. Some of them are:
- To discuss anything with a collector unless you want to;
- To answer a phone for a collector (this works with caller ID).
- To speak with the collector if you do answer.
- To answer any questions at all posed by the collector (collectors will often demand that you rearrange your finances, or cut back on other expenses to pay them; there is no requirement that you justify your lifestyle to a collector).
- To say “good-bye” before you hang up.
- To be truthful about your personal and financial affairs (you do not have to disclose private information about assets or income).
Important: There is no reason you need to acknowledge that you owe the money! This is very important if the debt is old. By acknowledging the debt, you may actually extend the time the creditor can sue on it. All states have statutes of limitations on debt collecting. Few states are more than six years. Many are less. You can extend this limitation by acknowledge the debt or even by making a partial payment!
Debt Collector’s Calls at Work
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) states:
“Without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt…” “…at the consumer’s place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication.”
Simply put, your rights as a consumer allow you to stop collectors from harassing you at work by putting the collector on notice that your employer does not permit you to receive the calls. Do you think your employer allows you to be harassed at work? Is this why you are paid? Probably not! Tell the debt collector this and confirm it in a letter! Then make notes as to each time the collector violates this warning. Bring your notes to your attorney and have him use it against the collector in court.
Damages Under the FDCPA
The FDCPA and Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA) provide for a private right of action against violators. This means that in Florida you can get a lawyer and sue for damages. A partial list of damages that are awardable are:
- Statutory damages:
- Up to $1,000 for each case. This means that the violator can be charged even though there are no other damages (see below).
- Punitive Damages.
- Attorney’s fees. You can make the violator pay for your lawyer. This is big advantage; lawyers are expensive!
- Actual damages including:
Stress related injuries:
- Heart attack, angina, chest constrictions
- Ulcers, diabetic flare-up
- Loss of appetite
- Nightmares; insomnia, night sweats
- Emotional paralysis
- Inability to think or function at work
- Shortness of breath
- Anxiety, nervousness; fear and worry
- Hypertension (elevation of blood pressure)
- Stress to children
- Embarrassment, humiliation
- Indignation and pain and suffering.
And this is just a partial list!
Your Rights As A Consumer Include The Right To Monetary Damages:
- Payment of a debt barred by the statute of limitations;
- Taking one’s property unlawfully or intimidating a debtor to return property by violating the FDCPA, e.g. “If you do not return your DVD player to the store, we will bring criminal charges!”
- Long distance telephone charges for phone calls to a collector who states that you must call him back.
- Attorney’s fees to defend a prior suit brought in violation of the FDCPA;
- Damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress generally (see above).