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Unfair Debt Collection in Montana

Unfair Debt Collection in Montana

Various circumstances can end up with you being underwater in debt, from an unexpected medical issue to losing a job and being unable to pay your bills, including your mortgage.

Any of these debt situations and others can result in you receiving creditor calls, emails, and letters if you allow your bills to go unpaid for too long, and unfortunately, our experience is that sometimes the treatment debtors receive borders on unfair debt collection practices.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of correspondence about overdue bills, you might have wondered if the tactics your creditors used overstepped their boundaries. Many of those creditors or debt collection agents may have complied with the law when reaching out to you. However, if you feel that they didn’t and you suffered harm as a result, you should speak with one of our attorneys who handles cases involving unfair debt collection in Montana.

You don’t have to pay anything for your initial meeting with a lawyer in our office.

What the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Prohibits

There are certain methods of collecting a debt that are expressly prohibited per the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which include:

  • Making threats of arrest or violence: Collections agents cannot threaten to have a debtor arrested for failing to pay a debt they owe. Additionally, they cannot threaten to physically harm you or your property for failing to do so.
  • Using inappropriate language: While threats are unlawful, so is the use of abusive and profane language when agents are attempting to collect on debts.
  • Call you at work: This rule specifically applies if creditors have been made aware that employers do not allow such calls.
  • Obsessively calling or harassing debtors: This federal law states that it’s unlawful for collection agents to call at unreasonable hours yet stops short of defining what would seem like an excessive number of calls.
  • Calling at unreasonable times: FDCPA clearly states that reaching out to a debtor before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. without a debtor’s prior consent is inappropriate.
  • Continuing to call after being asked to stop: If you send a certified letter requesting that a debt collector stop calling you, yet they continue to do so, their actions may violate FDCPA.
  • Impersonating a government agency or attorneys: It’s unlawful for creditors to make it seem like they’re working for an attorney’s office or law enforcement or another government agency trying to get your debtor to pay up.
  • Telling others about someone’s debt: Debt collectors can’t broadcast a debtor’s failure to pay what they owe publicly just to embarrass them. FDCPA only allows creditors to discuss a debt obligation with the debtor themselves or their legal representative. There is an exception to this rule that applies to credit bureaus.
  • Reaching out by phone instead of by other means: If you have sent your creditor a certified letter requesting that they discontinue calling you and instead only send you written correspondence and they don’t honor your request, it may be possible to hold them liable for unfair debt collection under the FDCPA.

Additionally, this federal law requires collections agents to be honest in their communication, including at the onset of the call, where they must identify themselves and state who they’re employed by. They must additionally use caution when outlining their debt collection efforts plans. For example, they cannot promise to do things they don’t intend to or cannot lawfully do.

It’s important to note that FDCPA only applies to debt collectors, not creditors. However, other laws or regulations do require creditors to use respectful language when engaging with debtors and respect their wishes when you request for them to only contact you in writing.

Other Collections Tactics Creditors May Use to Violate Your Rights

Additional debt collection strategies creditors often use that may violate your rights include:

  • Continuing to contact you after you’ve instructed them to altogether stop: If you have sent them a “Cease Contact” letter, creditors cannot make further contact with you about your debts except to confirm they will no longer reach out or to inform you that they’re taking legal action, i.e., filing a lawsuit.
  • Until they show proof of debt: This condition specifically applies if you send your creditor a letter within 30 days of them initially reaching out to you contesting the debt they say you owe (for example, by sending a “Debt Verification” letter). In situations like these, debt collectors must prove you owe the amount they say you do (i.e., by sending you a copy of the bill) before re-initiating debt collection efforts.
  • Failing to confirm your debt and attempts to collect on it in writing: Creditors are obligated to send debtors written correspondence outlining their debt obligation and steps to take to contest any amount they don’t believe they owe within five days of making initial contact with them.
  • Attempting to collect when debtors have filed bankruptcy: It’s widely known that bankruptcy is supposed to stop the debt collection process until the case is adjudicated; however, if it doesn’t, you may be entitled to take legal action.

Another sneaky tactic agents often use relies on you not knowing the statute of limitations that applies to their collection efforts. Different types of debts have different amounts of time where they can continue to collect on them.

In most cases, if the debt is eight years or older and collections companies can’t show you’ve made any efforts to pay toward it during that time, the lawsuit filed in an attempt to collect on it must be thrown out by a judge per Montana law.

Help for Victims of Unfair Debt Collection Efforts in Montana

The different ways described above in which creditors or debt collectors may mistreat debtors is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of ways these companies and their employees violate consumer protection laws like the ones described above.

There are countless other inappropriate, unscrupulous, and downright illegal methods of collection they use, too. We want to support you if your rights have been violated.

Our state allows you one year to sue a debt collector that violates the law, and if you’re successful in doing so, you may be eligible to recover as much as $1,000 in statutory damages in addition to your attorney’s fees and actual damages you sustained.

There is no statute of limitations if your lawsuit is filed as part of a counterclaim.

As you can see, timelines are short. In a situation like this, where money and your financial future are on the line, it’s imperative to take legal action quickly. Contact an attorney who specializes in unfair debt collection in Montana to discuss your situation.

Our legal team at Western Justice Associates, PLLC has long advocated on behalf of consumers like yourself, and you can count on our law firm’s lawyers to help you navigate our legal system with the goal of securing a positive outcome to your debt woes.

So, schedule your complimentary initial consultation now.

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