The Admin recovery act was designed in part, to protect consumers from potential abusive practices on the part of collection agencies and some creditors. The problem comes for the consumer in trying to prove that a collector violated the guidelines of the FDCPA. The only method to provide verifiable proof is to record the conversation that takes place. This action leads to the next logical question: is it within the bounds of the law to record a conversation, as well as, would that conversation be admissible as evidence?
It is almost always illegal to record a conversation to which you are not a party to, do not have permission to, and would not in the natural course of events have the opportunity or ability to overhear. This hold true in virtually every state.
In reference to the recording the phone conversations, states fall into one of two categories which are referred to as “one party consent” states and “two party consent” states. Twelve states require the consent of all parties to a conversation to allow for recording. Those states are:
- New Hampshire
If you live in a “one party” state, only one party needs to give permission to record the conversation, and that party can be you.
To add to the confusion, if you reside in a “one party” state and the call is originating from a “two party” state, you must have consent of the other party in order to satisfy the law.
The recording of phone calls is a serious matter and should never be taken lightly. There are criminal penalties for violating these laws in every state with the exception of Vermont.
There are many ways available to record a phone conversation, the easiest however, is still with devices that connect to your landline phones. There are more expensive methods available with cell phones, and some that are free if you use phone services that are connected with your PC or laptop. If it seems like if may be too much trouble to go through, keep in mind that in many states you are allowed to bring suit against collection agencies that violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
If you sue a collector for a violation of the FDCPA you could win an award in civil court for up to $1000.00. There are attorneys that specialize in actions of these types, the area of practice is called Consumer Law.
David Miller is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. He has written extensively about bankruptcy, debt settlement, debt consolidation, credit and credit cards, collection agency abuse, consumer law, credit card defense, FDCPA guidelines and complaints, loan modification scams, and foreclosure.
The debt collection industry is a high turnover environment that’s absolutely filled with a large percentage of inexperienced workers and managers. And, it’s precisely this lack of experience and inadequate understanding of state and federal regulations that facilitates much of the abusive behavior. But, there are also those debt collectors who are indeed experienced and savvy, but choose to ‘roll the dice’ and ignore the laws, because they know the odds of getting away with the crime are in their favor, as most consumers lack the knowledge and experience to effectively deal with the abusive behavior.
Proving that a crime has been committed is not always an easy thing to do. Debt collectors will try to frighten, confuse or intimidate the consumer into responding favorably to their demands. The success of a predator is dependent upon how well it understands the reactions of the prey when confronted with fear, confusion and emotional stress. The same is true of the relationship between the debt collector and consumer. The debt collector attacks and the consumer feels defenseless and is therefore tricked into taking action that can often nullify the crime, simply by agreeing to the collection agency terms and demands. Sadly, these are the unfortunate victims that seldom seek legal assistance, simply because they can’t afford to hire an attorney or they don’t really understand that any law has been violated.
Legal loopholes also make it difficult to prosecute violators in certain situations. Surprisingly, some debt collection violators are forced to shut down their operations, as the courts may terminate their license to conduct business, but it does little to prevent them from starting up an identical business under a different name. They’re no different than the carnival operators, of years gone by, who would scam the locals, fold up their tents in the dead of night and head to another town to repeat their sinister plot on another group of unsuspecting local citizens.
The first step in resolving any potential violation is to determine whether or not the collection agency or individual debt collector has in fact committed a crime. The Attorney General’s office in your state will have information and guidelines to help in that regard. Visit the website naag.org and select the box for your state on the map of the United States. That will take you to the Attorney General website where your options will typically include “Consumer Assistance” and “Frequently Asked Questions”. A second option is to visit the Federal Trade Commission website at ftc.gov for a comprehensive review of debt collection violations and recommended actions for the consumer to take.
After you’ve determined that the debt collector has likely violated your rights, begin the process of fighting back with any or all of the following actions:
- Send a certified letter to the offending collection agency or individual. This will let them know that you, as a consumer, know your rights and have reason to believe that they have violated the laws of the state and/or federal governments.
- If the abuse takes place on the telephone, at home or at work, tell the offending collector that you don’t want to receive any further phone calls concerning this matter.
- Either call or go to the Attorney General’s website for your state and file a complaint, so that an investigation may be initiated.
- Go to the Federal Trade Commission’s website and also file a complaint. If your complaint is one of a large enough number filed against this particular collection agency or individual, the FTC may indeed impose legal sanctions.