Few things are more stressful than owing money and having more debt than we can afford to pay back. Unfortunately, debt collectors know this and can (and will!) often try to use it to their advantage. If the debt is legitimate, you cannot simply refuse to pay — but that does not mean that collection agencies can be abusive or use deceptive or coercive practices to get you to pay.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lays out the ground rules and a code of conduct that collectors must, by law, follow. These include:
- They may not harass you through threats of violence or harm, use obscene or profane language or publish your name in a list of those who “refuse” to pay their debts.
- They may not make false statements, including lying about being attorneys, government agents or working for a credit reporting agency, falsely claiming that you committed a crime, sending phony legal documents or misrepresenting the amount of money you owe.
- They may not give false credit information about you.
- They may not threaten to have you arrested for non-payment or allege that they will garnish your wages, levy your bank account or sell or seize your property unless legally permitted to do so.
- They may not engage in unfair practices, including trying to collect fees, interest or additional fees or charges unless permitted by law or by contract.
- They may not deposit a post-dated check early (it is also in your best interest to pay by money order instead of by check, and save the receipt!).
You should also know that if you have already filed for bankruptcy in Georgia, you are protected by the automatic stay that specifically prohibits creditors, including collection agencies, from contacting you. You have the right to sue any creditor or debt collector who violates that law.