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Your Rights Under Federal Law

Documenting Violations

If your rights are violated, that can work to your advantage—but only if you document those violations. There are several ways to document violations. It is a good idea to use as many as possible, even though that might seem like overkill.

Call logs. Keep a note pad by your phone or visit the Resource Library for a call log you can print out. Each time a debt collector calls, write down the following information:

  • Person and company calling
  • Time and place of call (e.g., work, cell, home, neighbor)
  • What was said during the call
  • Any potential violations
  • How the call made you feel—threatened, anxious, can't sleep? This is especially important and may play into potential damages if you end up threatening to sue or actually suing.

Correspondence logs. When you receive correspondence from a debt collector, keep a copy of the correspondence in a file. Keep a separate file for each account. If you send letters or notices in writing, make a copy of those documents and staple them to your certified mail receipt and return receipt proving delivery. Your goal is to have proof of all written correspondence, as well as when anything you sent was received.

Recording calls. If your rights are violated, having actual recordings of those calls is the best evidence. But recorded calls, where all parties are not informed that the call is being recorded, are not admissible in some states.

Here are the basics: Federal law allows the recording of phone calls as long as at least one person (that's you) on the call gives their consent (and you do). Thirty-eight states (and the District of Columbia) agree with federal law. Those states have what is called one-party consent status: as long as you are a party to the conversation you may legally record that conversation.

If you live in Nevada, you technically live in a one-party consent state, but the Supreme Court interpreted your state's law to be an all-party law.

The other twelve states require the consent of all parties in a conversation (all-party consent status):

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington

For an up-to-date list of the phone rules in your state, visit http://www.rcfp.org/taping/states.html.

So what does all this mean? If you live in a one-party state, feel free to record your phone conversations without notifying the other party or parties. If you live in an all-party state, the debt collector (and anyone else on the line) must agree to be recorded. If not, those recordings cannot be used as evidence in a court of law. Making recordings is easy. Most electronics stores sell inexpensive phone recording devices, and many newer phones have recording devices already built in!

Keep in mind some people choose to record conversations, even without permission, simply to make note-taking easier. They record the conversation, use that recording to make accurate written notes, and then erase the tape.

Once you document violations it is important to know how serious these violations are. In the Minor FDCPA Violations section below, the violation may be cause for action depending on the nature, severity, and frequency of that violation. Violations from the second section are serious and likely justify an immediate federal complaint. Remember, the more severe the violation, the more leverage you have to force creditors to zero out your account. Keep accurate logs and if you feel your rights have been violated you can get a free consultation from an attorney who specializes in FDCPA violations by clicking here.

> Minor FDCPA Violations

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