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How does the FDCPA help with credit card debt?

Credit card debt is familiar to most American consumers. Although many consumers are able to manage their debt levels, others fall may fall into trouble-often due to no fault of their own. Many New York consumers who carry credit card debt are able to effectively make payments and keep ahead of their credit card balances until an unexpected circumstance occurs, like a job loss or a serious illness. When consumers begin struggling with credit card debt and the accompanying creditor harassment, the FDCPA can be of assistance.

The FDCPA, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, aims to protect consumers from unscrupulous and abusive actions of creditors and debt collection agencies. The FDCPA is a federal law that regulates debt collection agencies, lawyers who are involved in regular debt collection and companies who buy debts with the goal of collecting on them later. All types of household and personal debt are covered by the FDCPA. This includes mortgage loans, auto loans, medical bills and credit cards. Business debts are not covered, however.

One of the key things that the FDCPA does to protect consumers is limit the times and places a consumer may be contacted by a debt collector. Generally, unless a consumer agrees otherwise, debt collectors are limited to contacting consumers only between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Debt collectors are also prohibited from contacting consumers at their workplaces if they have been notified that the consumer is not permitted to receive such calls at work.

The FDCPA also provides a way for consumers to stop debt collectors from contacting them. Although the Federal Trade Commission recommends talking with a debt collection at least one time in order to find out information about potentially resolving the debt, the FTC understands that constant calls can be very stressful and undesired. When a consumer wishes to cease contact with the debt collection agency, the FDCPA stipulates that the consumer should mail a written request to the debt collector to cease efforts to contact the consumer. The consumer should send the original request by certified mail with a return receipt to verify it was received by the debt collector. Once the debt collector receives this notice from a consumer, the collector is prohibited from further contact except to confirm that it will cease contact or notify the consumer of its intention to take further action, such as institute a lawsuit to collect the debt. Although there are many other provisions in the FDCPA, these are two of most helpful for many consumers.

Source: Federal Trade Commission, "Debt Collection," Nov. 2013

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