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Fair Debt Collection Practices, and How You Avoid Unfair Treatment


You can avoid being treated unfairly by a debt collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

You can read the act for yourself.

However, anything the debt collector does that is "unfair" or "deceptive" (or could be deceptive to someone who didn't know better) illegal. And these terms were intentionally made very broad to encourage going after all the creative tricks of the debt collectors.

"Assignee" or Original Creditor?

So if, for example, the debt collector did not say it was an "Assignee" in its petition but said instead that it had lent the defendant money, that might be a violation of the Act. The collectors have tried this, arguing that since they had bought the debt from the original creditor they "stood in its shoes" as far as making allegations in the debt collection lawsuit.

But that, of course, is a crock. By purchasing the debt, the debt collector made itself a "debt collector" under the law, and Congress itself has decided that collectors cannot be treated as the original creditors and don't "stand in their shoes" when it comes to collecting debts. Instead, debt collectors must follow numerous rules that do not apply to original creditors.

So you can see that that allegation in the lawsuit violated the FDCPA. It was deceptive and unfair since it was (1) factually incorrect, and suggested that the debt collector was actually the original creditor (different legal rights) or had more information than it did (unfair, intimidating). It didn't matter whether the lawyers intended to deceive the defendant (although I believe they did) it's just illegal for them to do that.

"Card-holder Agreements"

Often the petition will attach something they call the "card-holder agreement." In every case of which I am aware, this has simply been "a" blank, generic card-holder agreement, certainly not signed by the person they were suing.

Do you see how calling it the card-holder agreement made it sound like they have an elaborate file on the defendant? Whereas in reality they had one blank card-holder agreement from the company which it copied and attached to suits against hundreds of defendants.

They had no records. But alleging there was a card-holder agreement made lots of people think the debt collector had the goods on them. That was deceptive and unfair, and a violation of the FDCPA.

Most debt collection cases are decided by default, and this is often because the people being sued believe, through tricks like the above-mentioned, that they have some personal information on them. Debt collectors word their lawsuits very, very carefully--not to be legally powerful or truthful, but to have the maximum intimidating or demoralizing effect on the people they are suing. They make their money by scaring people into giving up, not by winning appropriately filed lawsuits. If they try to intimidate you into thinking they have any real records which they do not have, they are breaking the FDCPA.

General Deception

If you're being sued, look very closely at the petition. Does it include or attach something supposed to be the contract or agreement that isn't signed by you? Do they attach documents supposed to be records from your file? Chances are good that they are trying to intimidate you unfairly. You can call their bluff by standing up for yourself and making them prove their case.

If you are being harassed or sued for debt, you can get a lot of help, much of it free, from my website at:
Or please take a look at a brief video presentation: Or please take a look at a brief video presentation:

Kenneth H. Gibert.

I Received a J.D. from Washington University Law School in 1989 and practiced law in St. Louis city and county (federal, state and local courts) for almost fifteen years, the last several of which were focused almost exclusively on debt litigation. My mission is to protect ordinary people from being taken advantage of by the debt collectors. Sign up for a free report and more help for people struggling with debt.

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