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The FDCPA in Action

Understanding the FDCPA is important. Knowing which violations are more serious than others is also important. Knowing how to handle dealing with debt collectors—and better yet, how to go violation fishing—can be incredibly important.

As a reminder, the FDCPA only applies to debt collectors and not original creditors. The original creditor is governed by the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) described earlier. If you're not sure who is calling, a safe rule of thumb to follow is that if it has been more than 6 months since the date of your last payment, you are probably talking to a debt collector.

Let's take a look at a typical debt collector call and how you can use the FDCPA to your advantage.

Aside from getting you to pay the full amount you allegedly owe, a debt collector's immediate goals are to:

  1. Get you to admit that the debt is yours
  2. Try to get you to make a payment immediately, no matter how small
  3. Find out as much information as possible to make their collection efforts easier

Remember, to a debt collector, you're a number. You're a dollar sign. You're not a person.

Regardless of how the debt collector behaves, always be professional and businesslike. If you're harassed, cursed, or treated poorly, don't get mad—just log the particulars so you can prove your rights were violated. Logging and documenting violations is the best way to get even with debt collectors. Remember, you can be sure they are recording the call for "training purposes" even if they don't notify you.

So let's go back to the first phone call you receive. Most debt collectors follow a written script. The debt collection agencies know they have poorly-motivated, poorly-trained employees, so they provide them with written scripts to try to overcome the lack of training and deal with the industry's high turnover rate. Many debt collectors will quickly veer from the script (if you are going "violation fishing" this is a good thing), but most calls should start the same way.

> Sample Debt Collection Agency Call

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