The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from engaging in abusive debt collection tactics. The federal law specifically forbids the following abuses:

  • threatening the use of violence;
  • using obscene, profane, or abusive language;
  • misrepresenting the character, amount, or legal status of any debt;
  • falsely representing or implying  that a communication is from an attorney;
  • threatening to take action that is illegal or not intended to be taken;
  • communicating false credit information to any person, including failing to communicate that a debt is disputed;
  • communicating with certain persons other than the consumer regarding the debt;
  • falsely implying that a consumer has committed a crime or other conduct in order to disgrace a consumer;
  • collecting any amount that is not authorized by agreement or  permitted by law, including interest, fees, charges, or expenses; and,
  • using language on any envelope, other than the debt collector’s address and in some cases, its business name

Further, debt collectors owe affirmative duties to consumers. They must provide certain information to consumers regarding a debt, including: (1) the amount of the debt; (2) the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed; (3) a statement that unless the consumer disputes the debt within 30 days after notice of the debt, the debt collector will assume the debt is valid; (4) a statement that if the consumer notifies the debt collector in writing within the 30 day period that the debt, or any portion thereof, is disputed, the debt collector will send the consumer verification of the debt or a copy of the judgment; and, (5) a statement that the debt collector will provide upon request the consumer with the name and address of the original creditor, if different from the current creditor.  Debt collectors must also identify themselves as debt collectors in all phone calls and letters.

If a debt collector fails to discharge these duties, or otherwise engages in abusive conduct, it can be liable to the consumer for damages.