California law provides consumer protection from unfair, deceptive, and/or abusive debt collectors and illegal debt collection techniques and practices. If a debt collector threatens violence or even suggests bad things will happen to you if you don't pay a particular debt, they are breaking the law. In fact, in California that is considered a criminal act and the authorities will pursue it.
If you, as a consumer feel you are being harassed, you can ask the debt collector to stop calling you or contacting you. You have that right and they must comply, and not contact you again except through a court order or legal summons.
Specifically, a debt collector cannot swear to you on the phone or call you four-letter words. They may not threaten to ‘sue the crap out of you' if you don't pay a bill. They can advise you that they will be forced to take other legal actions or a file in small claims court or another court to find another way to collect the debt. They cannot threaten to take a legal action against you that they do not actually intend to take.
Debt collectors cannot make false and misleading statements. They are not allowed to lie about the debt or fail to tell you the reason for the contact is about the debt. They are not allowed to call up to fish for information pretending to be a customer, job applicant, vendor, or government agency. They may not use the logos or similar looking identifications mimicking a court, government agency, credit reporting company, or attorney firm. All of these types of trickery are illicit behavior, they are illegal in the State of California.
If they make repeated phone calls over a short period of time hoping to harass you and wear you down so you agree to pay just to stop the harassment, you can tell them to stop calling. If they don't stop calling then you should report them. Debt collectors cannot call in wee hours of the night, they may only call between 8 AM and 9PM. You can also ask them to call you at a certain time or at more appropriate specified times and they must comply.
If a debt collector contacts you at work, and you ask them to not contact you at work, they must comply. It might be wise to send this in writing so you have a paper trail if you think this debt issue will one day end up in court. You can ask a debt collector to stop contacting you all together and having that in writing sure helps. It can also put them on notice. Failure to comply could mean heavy fines or debt collection license revocation.
As a consumer you have rights, in California those rights will be enforced by authorities, and the debt collection industry knows it.
If you are disputing a debt. Make your dispute known early and in writing. It will help later in case the dispute ends up in court, or in case later you wish to remove mistakes on your credit history score. Having a paper trail matters in all disputed debt matters. Knowing your rights as a consumer also matters. Most of all, it matters to have a competent attorney on your side if things appear to be getting out of hand.
Lance Winslow has launched a new provocative series of eBooks on the Future of Education. Lance Winslow is a retired Founder of a Nationwide Franchise Chain, and now runs the Online Think Tank; http://www.worldthinktank.net.
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