The FDCPA has broad and encompassing provisions against false or misleading representations (15 USC 1692e), including but not limited to threatening arrest, imprisonment, seizure, garnishment, attachment, or sale of property or wages. If you suspect a debt collector is making false or misleading representations to you contact a fair debt attorney immediately.
Debt Collector False Statements
The tactics listed here are not an inclusive but they are the tactics reported to the FTC.
- False, deceptive, or misleading representation – 807
- Implying affiliation with the United States Government – 807(1)
- False representing the legal status of your debt – 807(2)
- Implying that individual is an attorney – 807(3)
- Implying or threatening nonpayment will result in your arrest – 807(4)
- Threat to take legal action not intended to be taken – 807(5)
- Falsely implying the loss of any claim or defense – 807(6)
- Falsely implying you committed a crime by not paying a debt – 807(7)
- Communicating false credit information – 807(8)
- Use of false documents that imply a state or federal source – 807(9)
- Falsely obtaining information about you – 807(10)
- Collectors must clearly explain how information will be used – 807(11)
- Implying your account(s) have been turned over to purchasers 807(12)
- Implying documents are a legal process when they are not – 807(13)
- Prohibits collectors from using false names – 807(14)
- Implying documents do not require action when they do – 807(15)
- Implying debt collector is employed by a CRA – 807(16)
- Non-profit debt consolidation help
1. Section 807 prohibits a debt collector from using any “false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt.” It provides sixteen examples of false or misleading representations.
1. Scope. Prohibited actions are not limited to the sixteen subsections listed as examples of activities that violate this provision. In addition, section 807(10), which prohibits the “use of any false representation or deceptive means” by a debt collector, is particularly broad and encompasses virtually every violation, including those not covered by the other subsections.
1. Symbol on dunning notice. A debt collector may not use a symbol in correspondence that makes him appear to be a government official. For example, a collection letter depicting a police badge, a judge, or the scales of justice, normally violates this section.
3. Section 807(2) prohibits falsely representing either “(A) the character, amount, or legal status of any debt; or (B) any services rendered or compensation which may be lawfully received by” the collector.
1. Legal status of debt. A debt collector may not falsely imply that legal action has begun.
2. Amount of debt. A debt collector may not claim an amount more than actually owed, or falsely assert that the debt has matured or that it is immediately due and payable, when it is not.
3. Judgment. When a debt collector provides the validation notice required by section 809(a)(4), the notice may include the words “copy of a judgment” whether or not a judgment exists, because section 809(a)(4) provides for a statement including these words. Compliance with section 809(a)(4) in this manner will not be considered a violation of section 807(2)(A).
1. Form of legal correspondence. A debt collector may not send a collection letter from a “Pre-Legal Department,” where no legal department exists. An attorney may use a computer service to send letters on his own behalf, but a debt collector may not send a computer-generated letter deceptively using an attorney’s name.
2. Named individual. A debt collector may not falsely represent that a person named in a letter is his attorney.
3. Relation to other sections. If a creditor falsely uses an attorney’s name rather than his own in his collection communications, he loses both his exemption from the FDCPA’s definition of “debt collector” (Section 803(6)) and violates this provision.
5. Section 807(4) prohibits falsely representing or implying to the consumer that nonpayment “will result in the arrest or imprisonment of any [53 Fed. Reg. 50106] person or the seizure, garnishment, attachment, or sale of any property or wages of any person . . .”
1. Debt collector’s statement of his own definite action. A debt collector may not state that he will take any action unless he intends to take the action when the statement is made, or ordinarily takes the action in similar circumstances.
2. Debt collector’s statement of definite action by third party. A debt collector may not state that a third party will take any action unless he has reason to believe, at the time the statement is made, that such action will be taken.
3. Statement of possible action. A debt collector may not state or imply that he or any third party may take any action unless such action is legal and there is a reasonable likelihood, at the time the statement is made, that such action will be taken. A debt collector may state that certain action is possible, if it is true that such action is legal and is frequently taken by the collector or creditor with respect to similar debts; however, if the debt collector has reason to know there are facts that make the action unlikely in the particular case, a statement that the action was possible would be misleading.
4. Threat of criminal action. A debt collector may not threaten to report a dishonored check or other fact to the police, unless he actually intends to take this action.
5. Threat of attachment. A debt collector may not threaten to attach a consumer’s tax refund, when he has no authority to do so.
6. Threat of legal or other action. Section 807(5) refers not only to a false threat of legal action, but also a false threat by a debt collector that he will report a debt to a credit bureau, assess a collection fee, or undertake any other action if the debt is not paid. A debt collector may also not misrepresent the imminence of such action.
A debt collector’s implication, as well as a direct statement, of planned legal action may be an unlawful deception. For example, reference to an attorney or to legal proceedings may mislead the debtor as to the likelihood or imminence of legal action.
A debt collector’s statement that legal action has been recommended is a representation that legal action may be taken, since such a recommendation implies that the creditor will act on it at least some of the time.
Lack of intent may be inferred when the amount of the debt is so small as to make the action totally unfeasible or when the debt collector is unable to take the action because the creditor has not authorized him to do so.
7. Illegality of threatened act. A debt collector may not threaten that he will illegally contact an employer, or other third party, or take some other “action that cannot legally be taken” (such as advising the creditor to sue where such advice would violate state rules governing the unauthorized practice of law). If state law forbids a debt collector from suing in his own name (or from doing so without first obtaining a formal assignment and that has not been done), the debt collector may not represent that he will sue in that state.
7. Section 807(6) prohibits falsely representing or implying that a transfer of the debt will cause the consumer to (A) lose any claim or defense, or (B) become subject to any practice prohibited by the FDCPA.
1. Referral to creditor. A debt collector may not falsely state that the consumer’s account will be referred back to the original creditor, who would take action the FDCPA prohibits the debt collector to take.
1. False allegation of fraud. A debt collector may not falsely allege that the consumer has committed fraud.
2. Misrepresentation of criminal law. A debt collector may not make a misleading statement of law, falsely implying that the consumer has committed a crime, or mischaracterized what constitutes an offense by misstating or omitting significant elements of the offense. For example, a debt collector may not tell the consumer that he has committed a crime by issuing a check that is dishonored, when the statute applies only where there is a “scheme to defraud.”
1. Disputed debt. If a debt collector knows that a debt is disputed by the consumer, either from receipt of written notice (section 809) or other means, and reports it to a credit bureau, he must report it as disputed.
2. Post-report dispute. When a debt collector learns of a dispute after reporting the debt to a credit bureau, the dispute need not also be reported.
NOTE: Under this circumstance, it is to you to notify the credit bureau that the debt is being disputed. See in-depth coverage of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and learn how to dispute the debt and repair your credit reports using these instructions and Free sample letters.
10. Section 807(9) prohibits the use of any document designed to falsely imply that it issued from a state or federal source, or “which creates a false impression as to its source, authorization, or approval.”
1. Relation to other sections. Most of the violations of this section involve simulated legal process, which is more specifically covered by section 807(13). However, this subsection is broader in that it also covers documents that fraudulently appear to be official government documents, or otherwise mislead the recipient as to their authorship.
1. Relation to other sections. The prohibition is so comprehensive that violation of any part of section 807 will usually also violate subsection (10). Actions that violate more specific provisions are discussed in those sections.
2. Communication format. A debt collector may not communicate by a format or envelope that misrepresents the nature, purpose, or urgency of the message. It is a violation to send any communication that conveys to the consumer a false sense of urgency. However, it is usually permissible to send a letter generated by a machine, such as a computer or other printing device. A bona fide contest entry form, which provides a clearly optional location to enter employment information, enclosed with request for payment, is not deceptive.
3. False statement or implications. A debt collector may not falsely state or imply that a consumer is required to assign his wages to his creditor when he is not, that the debt collector has counseled the creditor to sue when he has not, that adverse credit information has been entered on the consumer’s credit record when it has not, that the entire amount is due when it is not, or that he cannot accept partial payments when in fact he is authorized to accept them.
4. Misrepresentation of law. A debt collector may not mislead the consumer as to the legal consequences of the consumer’s actions (e.g., by falsely implying that a failure to respond is an admission of liability).
A debt collector may not state that federal law requires a notice of the debt collector’s intent to contact third parties.
5. Misleading letterhead. A debt collector’s employee who is an attorney may not use “attorney-at-law” [53 Fed. Reg. 50107] stationery without referring to his employer, so as to falsely imply to the consumer that the debt collector had retained a private attorney to bring suit on the account.
12. Section 807(11) requires the debt collector to “disclose clearly in all communications made to collect a debt or to obtain information about a consumer, that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose,” except where section 804 provides otherwise.
1. Oral communications. A debt collector must make the required disclosures in both oral and written communications.
2. Disclosure to consumers. When a debt collector contacts a consumer and clearly discloses that he is seeking payment of a debt, he need not state that all information will be used to collect a debt, since that should be apparent to the consumer. The debt collector need not repeat the required disclosure in subsequent contacts.
A debt collector may not send the consumer a note saying only “please call me right away” unless there has been prior contact between the parties and the collector is thus known to the consumer.
3. Disclosures to third parties. Except when seeking location information, the debt collector must state in the first communication with a third party that he is attempting to collect the debt and that information will be used for that purpose, but need not do so in subsequent communications with that party.
1. Relation to other sections. Section 807(6)(A) prohibits a false statement or implication that threatening to affect the consumer’s rights may be affected by transferring the account; this subsection forbids falsely stating or implying that a transfer to certain parties has occurred.
1. Simulated legal process. A debt collector may not send written communications that deceptively resemble legal process forms. He may not send a form or a dunning letter that, taken as a whole, appears to simulate legal process. However, one legal phrase (such as “notice of legal action” or “show just cause why”) alone will not result in a violation of this section unless it contributes to an erroneous impression that the document is a legal form.
1. Permissible business name. A debt collector may use a name that does not misrepresent his identity or deceive the consumer. Thus, a collector may use its full business name, the name under which it usually transacts business, or a commonly-used acronym. When the collector uses multiple names in its various affairs, it does not violate this subsection if it consistently uses the same name when dealing with a particular consumer.
2. Creditor misrepresentation of identity. A creditor may not use any name that would falsely imply that a third party is involved in the collection. The in-house collection unit of “ABC Corp.” may use the name “ABC Collection Division,” but not the name “XYZ Collection Agency” or some other unrelated name.
A creditor violates this section if he uses the name of a collection bureau as a conduit for a collection process that the creditor controls in collecting his own accounts. Similarly, a creditor may not use a fictitious name or letterhead, or a “post office box address” name that implies someone else is collecting his debts.
A creditor does not violate this provision where an affiliated (and differently named) debt collector undertakes collection activity, if the debt collector does business separately from the creditor (e.g., where the debt collector in fact has other clients that he treats similarly to the creditor, has his own employees, deals at arms length with the creditor, and controls the process himself).
3. All collection activities covered. A debt collection business must use its real business name, commonly-used name, or acronym in both written and oral communications.
4. Relation to other sections. If a creditor uses a false business name, he both loses his exemption from the FDCPA’s definition of “debt collector” (section 803(6)) and violates this provision. If a debt collector falsely uses the name of an attorney rather than his true business name, he violates section 807(3) as well as this section. When a debt collector uses a false business name in a phone call, he violates section 806(6) as well as this section.
When using the mails to obtain location information, a debt collector may not (unless expressly requested by the recipient to identify the firm) use a name that indicates he is in the debt collection business, or he will violate section 804(5). When a debt collector’s employee who is seeking location information replies to an inquiry about his employer’s identity under section 804(1), he must give the true name of his employer.
1. Disguised legal process. A debt collector may not deceive a consumer into failing to respond to legal process by concealing the importance of the papers, thereby subjecting the consumer to a default judgment.
1. Dual agencies. The FDCPA does not prohibit a debt collector from operating a consumer reporting agency.
2. Misleading names. Only a bona fide consumer reporting agency may use names such as “Credit Bureau,” “Credit Bureau Collection Agency,” “General Credit Control,” “Credit Bureau Rating, Inc.,” or “National Debtors Rating.” A debt collector’s disclaimer in the text of a letter that the debt collector is not affiliated with (or employed by) a consumer reporting agency will not necessarily avoid a violation if the collector uses a name that indicates otherwise.
3. Factual issue. Whether a debt collector that has called itself a credit bureau actually qualifies as such is a factual issue, to be decided according to the debt collector’s actual operation.
If you believe you are a victim of unfair or illegal debt collection tactics, submit your information to a FREE* Fair Debt Lawyer by:
- Clicking here for a FREE* Fair Debt Case Review;
- Calling toll free 888-FDCPA-LAW (888-332-7252);
- Clicking here to locate a FREE* Fair Debt Lawyer.
The debt collector may just be liable to you for statutory damages of to $1,000, plus any actual damages suffered, plus attorney fees!