Debt Collection agencies like to use high pressure tactics such as calls to your place of employment, reporting to the credit bureaus, and threats of garnishment. Congress enacted the Fair Credit Reporting Act to provide protection against abusive and unfair practices. Some states have also enacted laws to provide protection for consumers who are dealing with debt collectors.
Statutes of Limitations: A statute of limitations on a debt is defined as the period of time following the last payment made on an account, during which a creditor can successfully sue for payment. Once the statute of limitations has expired, however, the debtor has an absolute defense in the case of a lawsuit. In other words, you no longer have to pay.
The statute of limitations in Florida is five years for written agreements and four years for oral agreements. It is important to realize that statutes of limitation on debts do not affect how long they may be listed on your credit report – generally for seven years.
What Collectors Cannot Do: In addition to their responsibilities as outlined above, debt collectors also are obligated to refrain from any type of harassment, abuse, or deliberate misleading of debtors.
The following types of harassment / abuse are illegal:
- Use of obscene or profane language.
- Calling a debtor or his or her family repeatedly with the intent to annoy or irritate.
- Threats of violence against a debtor or his or her property.
- Threats to advertise one’s debt.
- Threats to take any action that is illegal, or that the collector does not really intend to take.
The following methods of misrepresentation are illegal:
- Leading a debtor to believe that the collector is an attorney, a law enforcement official, from a government agency, from a credit bureau, or approved by the government.
- Using stationary or forms that are made to look like legal documents or official government documents.
- Implying that the debtor has committed a crime or is going to jail.
- Attempting to collect a debt that is known to be incorrect.