Debt Collector Dirty Tactics: Part I

We recently hosted a Facebook Live to discuss popular debt collector tactics. In case you missed it or are looking for a further breakdown, here are some of the things we discussed.

If you did miss our Live, check out the full video here, and make sure to tune in every Friday for a new discussion on a variety of current legal topics.

Yes, You Can Sue!

The number one question we are asked when it comes to debt collection is: can I sue the person trying to collect a debt from me? The answer is: yes! You can almost always sue a debt collector if that person is using tricky or illegal tactics to try and get you to pay a debt.

So, what is a tricky or illegal tactic? Why do debt collectors use these tactics? Here are some of the things we discussed.

Top Debt Collector Moves

Anything that’s unethical, deceitful, any trickery, overly aggressive tactics that are mean and nasty and can be used to bully others is what we call a dirtbag move. Some of those moves include:

  • Trying to collect a debt that you do not owe and have never heard of
  • Attempting to collect an expired debt
  • Any move that violates an existing agreement
  • Calling your workplace, boss, parents, or anyone else to discuss your debt.
  • Harassing you with endless phone calls and excessive messages

Florida is unique in that you can sue debt collectors that you cannot sue under federal law. In many cases, we are able to sue large companies that are not deemed “debt collectors” federally but are deemed “people” at the state level.

Florida Case Example: Bank of America

Under federal jurisdiction, a bank (let’s use Bank of America here as an example) is not a debt collector. Why? Because, according to the definition, a debt collector is someone that is attempting to collect a debt that did not originate with them.

Let’s break this down a bit more. A bank trying to collect a debt is attempting to collect their own money. Or, put another way, you borrowed money directly from them and they are not trying to collect a different debt.

Original creditors cannot be sued under the FDCPA because they are not “debt collectors,” but you can sue them in Florida because in Florida they are considered a “person”, not a collector.

In contrast, a debt collector tries to collect a debt that was owed to someone else. This is where third parties (and even fourth and fifth parties) come into play.

You Owe Debt to Who?!

Have you ever gotten a call from a debt collector that you’ve never heard of? This is more common than you think. When an original lender cannot recoup the debt, they sell your debt to companies that try to get you to pay.

But here’s the crazy part. Those companies literally purchase a list of people with debts owed and never - not even once - look into whether or not that person actually owes a debt.

It may be entirely possible that you paid the debt. Or, that the debt is not owed. Or, that you are not the person listed in the file. Or any number of other misleading details. We will talk about this further in Part II of this blog post. For now, though, let’s focus on expired debt.

Dusting Off Old Debt

Debt collectors cannot use the court system to collect expired debt. They can try to collect by dunning letters or phone calls. But, if the money owed is older than 61 months past the last payment (beyond the statute of limitations in Florida), that debt can no longer be collected by suing for the debt.

Some debt collectors and attorneys screw this up and file a lawsuit beyond the statute of limitations, and, if they get caught, they pay for this mistake.

So, if a company is trying to recoup debt from you that has been outstanding 6 years or more, they cannot sue you, but they can call or send a letter, and you can tell them to pound salt.

The letter itself may very well violate the law allowing you to sue them, so don’t throw the letter away. Also, they can call you after 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. but they cannot make you pay (and if they do harass you, you can sue them).

What about debt that is not expired? Can a debt collector still try to get money from you even if you did not borrow from that company directly? The short answer here is: yes. Bad debts are bought and sold all the time. But, again, they can’t use any tricky or deceitful tactics (more on that later too).

Make sure to check back here for the second part of our Facebook Live coverage in print form. We want to make sure that you know what you can and can’t do when it comes to tricky debt collection tactics, and tune into our live discussion every Friday - we will be available to answer all of your questions!