This is general information; not advertising, solicitation, or legal advice. If you have a legal question, please contact a lawyer in your state to protect yourself. Do not rely on anything you read here, especially in lieu of contacting a lawyer directly. Every case is different, and every case turns on its own individual facts.
One very important thing to remember when considering whether you have a claim under the FDCPA is that it only applies to third party debt collectors. These are typically debt collection agencies and lawyers. This means that the creditor (owner of the debt) is generally exempt from the Act. There is an important exception, however. Defaulted obligations of all kinds are purchased by certain companies for pennies on the dollar. These companies refer to themselves as distressed debt buyers. We refer to them as "bottom feeders" which more appropriately describes them. They become debt collectors when they purchase your debt from the original creditor when it is in default. Even though they are creditors they are covered by the FDCPA.
Not every debt is covered by Act. The debt must be consumer debt. This means that it must arise from a consumer transaction. This generally includes a transaction primarily for personal, family or household purposes. Unfortunately, the Act won't protect you against a debt collector attempting to collect a business debt. Also, the collection of delinquent income taxes, penalties and traffic fines are not covered. Generally speaking, debts which don't arise from a contract such as those incurred as a result of an automobile accident where you cause property damage to another are not covered. However, if you should enter into a contract to pay this debt, then the debt is probably covered. Bottom line, the vast majority of debts will be covered by the FDCPA.
Types of Violations
The number and types of debt collection practices that violate the statute are too numerous to mention in this brief summary. However, we will attempt to describe a few of the most common that we see. I divide them into two types: technical violations which generally lead only to statutory damages and harassment and abuse which may entitle the consumer to actual damages as well as statutory damages.
False and Innacurate Statements
A debt collector may violate the law if it misstates the character, amount or legal status of the debt. In other words, a debt collector may not threaten to take action which is impossible for it to take or for it to threaten to engage in action that it has no intention of taking. This frequently takes the form of a threat to file suit on a time-barred debt.These representations can take place in either written or verbal form where the debt collector states something which is neither factually nor legally accurate. One common example, is the assertion that if the debt is not paid or payment not received by a specific date, a wage garnishment will immediately issue. You should know that a garnishment will not issue until a suit is first filed and then only after a judgment is ordered which certainly doesn't happen overnight as the debt collector wants you to believe. Frequently, the amount of the debt is inflated and/or there are charges added to the debt which are excessive or improper. For example, the assertion by a debt collector that if you are sued the creditor will be entitled to recover attorney fees (this is not possible in Ohio and many states) in addition to whatever else is owed.