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Debt Harassment

Have you been victimized by illegal practices of debt collectors?  If you need debt collection protection, contact the Florida law firm of Robert J. Pellegrino.  For over 25 years, I have been an attorney fighting for your rights.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers.  It spells out what actions debt collectors can and can’t do to collect and disclose about what you owe.  The FDCPA rules include “strict liability” – if the collector violates the act in any way, their intent to collect the debt is besides the point.  Third party collection companies can be fined up to $1,000.00 dollars for violation of the debt collection rules.  Victims of abuse and harassment are entitled to compensation – now the collector has to pay the debtor.

Put and end to creditor harassment

Hours for phone contact: contacting consumers by telephone outside of the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. local time
Failure to cease communication upon request: communicating with consumers in any way (other than litigation) after receiving written notice that said consumer wishes no further communication or refuses to pay the alleged debt, with certain exceptions, including advising that collection efforts are being terminated or that the collector intends to file a lawsuit or pursue other remedies where permitted
Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously: with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.
Communicating with consumers at their place of employment after having been advised that this is unacceptable or prohibited by the employer
Contacting consumer known to be represented by an attorney
Communicating with consumer after request for validation has been made: communicating with the consumer or the pursuing collection efforts by the debt collector after receipt of a consumer’s written request for verification of a debt made within the 30 day validation period (or for the name and address of the original creditor on a debt) and before the debt collector mails the consumer the requested verification or original creditor’s name and address
Misrepresentation or deceit: misrepresenting the debt or using deception to collect the debt, including a debt collector’s misrepresentation that he or she is an attorney or law enforcement officer
Publishing the consumer’s name or address on a “bad debt” list
Seeking unjustified amounts, which would include demanding any amounts not permitted under an applicable contract or as provided under applicable law
Threatening arrest or legal action that is either not permitted or not actually contemplated
Abusive or profane language used in the course of communication related to the debt
Communication with third parties: revealing or discussing the nature of debts with third parties (other than the consumer’s spouse or attorney) (Collection agencies are allowed to contact neighbors or co-workers but only to obtain location information; disreputable agencies often harass debtors with a “block party” or “office party” where they contact multiple neighbors or co-workers telling them they need to reach the debtor on an urgent matter.)
Contact by embarrassing media, such as communicating with a consumer regarding a debt by post card, or using any language or symbol, other than the debt collector’s address, on any envelope when communicating with a consumer by use of the mails or by telegram, except that a debt collector may use his business name if such name does not indicate that he is in the debt collection business
Reporting false information on a consumer’s credit report or threatening to do so in the process of collection

Required conduct

The Act requires debt collectors to do the following (among other requirements):

Identify themselves and notify the consumer, in every communication, that the communication is from a debt collector, and in the initial communication that any information obtained will be used to effect collection of the debt[Give the name and address of the original creditor (company to which the debt was originally payable) upon the consumer’s written request made within 30 days of receipt of the §1692g notice;
Notify the consumer of their right to dispute the debt (Section 805), in part or in full, with the debt collector. The 30-day “§1692g” notice is required to be sent by debt collectors within five days of the initial communication with the consumer, though in 2006 the definition of “initial communication” was amended to exclude “a formal pleading in a civil action” for purposes of triggering the §1692g notice, complicating the matter where the debt collector is an attorney or law firm. The consumer’s receipt of this notice starts the clock running on the 30-day right to demand verification of the debt from the debt collector.
Provide verification of the debt If a consumer sends a written dispute or request for verification within 30 days of receiving the §1692g notice, then the debt collector must either mail the consumer the requested verification information or cease collection efforts altogether. Such asserted disputes must also be reported by the creditor to any credit bureau that reports the debt. Consumers may still dispute a debt verbally or after the thirty-day period has elapsed, but doing so waives the right to compel the debt collector to produce verification of the debt. Verification should include at a minimum the amount owed and the name and address of the original creditor.
File a lawsuit in a proper venue If a debt collector chooses to file a lawsuit, it may only be in a place where the consumer lives or signed the contract Note, however, that this does not prevent the debt collector from being sued in other venues for violating the Act, such as when the consumer moves outside the venue and a letter demanding payment is forwarded to the new address, even if the debt collector is unaware of such a change in residence.

Florida’s FCCPA Section 559.72 Prohibited practices generally.–In collecting consumer debts, no
person shall:
(1) Simulate in any manner a law enforcement officer or a representative of any governmental agency;

(2) Use or threaten force or violence;

(3) Tell a debtor who disputes a consumer debt that she or he or any person employing her or him will disclose to another, orally or in writing, directly or
indirectly, information affecting the debtor’s reputation for credit worthiness without also informing the debtor that the existence of the dispute will also be
disclosed as required by subsection

(4) Communicate or threaten to communicate with a debtor’s employer prior to obtaining final judgment against the debtor, unless the debtor gives her or
his permission in writing to contact her or his employer or acknowledges in writing the existence of the debt after the debt has been placed for collection,
but this shall not prohibit a person from telling the debtor that her or his employer will be contacted if a final judgment is obtained;

(5) Disclose to a person other than the debtor or her or his family information affecting the debtor’s reputation, whether or not for credit worthiness, with
knowledge or reason to know that the other person does not have a legitimate business need for the information or that the information is false;

(6) Disclose information concerning the existence of a debt known to be reasonably disputed by the debtor without disclosing that fact. If a disclosure is
made prior to such reasonable dispute having been asserted and written notice is received from the debtor that any part of the debt is disputed and if such
dispute is reasonable, the person who made the original disclosure shall reveal upon the request of the debtor within 30 days the details of the dispute to
each person to whom disclosure of the debt without notice of the dispute was made within the preceding 90 days;

(7) Willfully communicate with the debtor or any member of her or his family with such frequency as can reasonably be expected to harass the debtor or her
or his family, or willfully engage in other conduct which can reasonably be expected to abuse or harass the debtor or any member of her or his family;

(8) Use profane, obscene, vulgar, or willfully abusive language in communicating with the debtor or any member of her or his family;

(9) Claim, attempt, or threaten to enforce a debt when such person knows that the debt is not legitimate or assert the existence of some other legal right
when such person knows that the right does not exist;

(10) Use a communication which simulates in any manner legal or judicial process or which gives the appearance of being authorized, issued or approved
by a government, governmental agency, or attorney at law, when it is not;

(11) Communicate with a debtor under the guise of an attorney by using the stationery of an attorney or forms or instruments which only attorneys are
authorized to prepare;

(12) Orally communicate with a debtor in such a manner as to give the false impression or appearance that such person is or is associated with an attorney;

(13) Advertise or threaten to advertise for sale any debt as a means to enforce payment except under court order or when acting as an assignee for the
benefit of a creditor;

(14) Publish or post, threaten to publish or post, or cause to be published or posted before the general public individual names or any list of names of
debtors, commonly known as a deadbeat list, for the purpose of enforcing or attempting to enforce collection of consumer debts;

(15) Refuse to provide adequate identification of herself or himself or her or his employer or other entity whom she or he represents when requested to do
so by a debtor from whom she or he is collecting or attempting to collect a consumer debt;

(16) Mail any communication to a debtor in an envelope or postcard with words typed, written, or printed on the outside of the envelope or postcard
calculated to embarrass the debtor. An example of this would be an envelope addressed to “Deadbeat, Jane Doe” or “Deadbeat, John Doe”;

(17) Communicate with the debtor between the hours of 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. in the debtor’s time zone without the prior consent of the debtor;

(18) Communicate with a debtor if the person knows that the debtor is represented by an attorney with respect to such debt and has knowledge of, or
can readily ascertain, such attorney’s name and address, unless the debtor’s attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to a
communication from the person, unless the debtor’s attorney consents to a direct communication with the debtor, or unless the debtor initiates the
communication; or

(19) Cause charges to be made to any debtor for communications by concealment of the true purpose of the communication, including collect
telephone calls and telegram fees.


If you have substantial debts and are beginning to receive calls about paying those bills, you should consider doing the following:

DON’T DESTROY OR THROW ANYTHING AWAY.  Each letter, including the envelopes sent to you may be important enough that it could make a difference in winning your case!
WRITE NOTES – MAKE NOTES!  If you speak to a bill collector, ask their name, and note the date and time of the call.  When the call ends, write down as much of the conversation as you can remember.

WARNING  Florida law prohibits the recording of phone calls without BOTH parties express acknowledgment and permission.  Without permission is a Felony.  If you can get the collector to agree to be recorded at the very beginning of the conversation, it may help to substantiate your case.

Other Relevant Statutes

Telephone Consumer Protection Act

Unless the recipient has given prior express consent, the TCPA and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules under the TCPA generally:
Prohibits solicitors from calling residences before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., local time.
Requires solicitors maintain a “do-not-call” (DNC) list of consumers who asked not to be called; the DNC request must be honored for 5 years.
Requires solicitors honor the National Do Not Call Registry.
Requires solicitors provide their name, the name of the person or entity on whose behalf the call is being made, and a telephone number or address at which that person or entity may be contacted.
Prohibits solicitations to residences that use an artificial voice or a recording.

Prohibits any call made using automated telephone equipment or an artificial or prerecorded voice to an emergency line (e.g., “911”), a hospital emergency number, a physician’s office, a hospital/health care facility/elderly room, a cellular telephone, or any service for which the recipient is charged for the call.
Prohibits autodialed calls that engage two or more lines of a multi-line business.
Prohibits unsolicited advertising faxes.
In the event of a violation of the TCPA, a subscriber may sue for up to $1,500 for each violation or to recover actual monetary loss, whichever is higher. In addition, the subscriber may seek an injunction.

The FCC’s initial do-not-call list regulations were ineffective at proactively stopping unsolicited calls because the consumer had to make a do-not-call request for each telemarketer. This burden was lifted by the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act’s establishment of the National Do Not Call Registry and adoption of the National Do-Not-Call list by the FCC in 2003

The CAN-SPAM Act made a minor amendment to the TCPA to explicitly apply the TCPA to calls and faxes originating from outside the U.S.

The portions of the TCPA related to unsolicited advertising faxes were amended by the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005.
Unusual statutory provision

Though the TCPA is a federal statute, suits brought by consumers against violators are frequently filed in state courts. The TCPA is unusual in that the language creating a private right of action led to conflicting views on whether the federal courts had federal question subject matter jurisdiction. The TCPA provides in relevant part: “A person or entity may, if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a State, bring in an appropriate court of that State. …”As of January 2012, there was a circuit split among the federal appeals courts on the issue of whether federal courts have federal question, diversity jurisdiction (individually or under the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005), or whether the state courts have exclusive jurisdiction.

Major court cases

The TCPA’s constitutionality was challenged by telemarketers soon after it was enacted. Two cases, Moser v. FCC, 46 F.3d 970 (9th Cir. 1995) cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1161 (1995) and Destination Ventures Ltd. v. FCC, 46 F.3d 54 (9th Cir. 1995) effectively settled this issue finding the restrictions in the TCPA were constitutional.

The United States Supreme Court resolved a significant circuit split to decide that federal courts have federal question subject matter jurisdiction in Mims v. Arrow Financial Services, LLC, __ US __, 132 S. Ct. 740, 181 L. Ed. 2d 881 (Jan. 18, 2012), resolving a circuit split.

The Ninth Circuit held that the TCPA applies to unsolicited cellular telephone text messages advertising the commercial availability of goods or services as “calls” made in violation of the act.