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Dealing with debt collectors can be a real pain – trust me, I’ve been there. But it‘s important to know your rights and what these guys can (and can‘t) do when it comes to collecting on debts in Washington state.Let’s start with the basics: debt collectors have to follow certain rules laid out in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) here’s a link to the FDCPA on the FTC website. This federal law prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, deceptive, or unfair practices when trying to collect a debt.But Washington also has its own set of laws that debt collectors need to follow, like the Washington Collection Agency Act you can find more info on this act here. These state laws provide extra protections for consumers on top of the FDCPA.

What Debt Collectors Can (and Can’t) Do in Washington

So what exactly are the rules debt collectors have to follow in our state? Here are some key things to keep in mind:

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They Can’t Harass or Abuse You

Debt collectors are NOT allowed to threaten violence, use obscene language, or repeatedly call you with the intent to annoy or harass. They also can’t lie about the amount you owe or falsely claim that you’ve committed a crime.According to this article on Nolo.com, some examples of harassment include:

  • Calling before 8 am or after 9 pm
  • Using profane language
  • Threatening violence or harm
  • Calling repeatedly to annoy you

They Have to Identify Themselves

When a debt collector first contacts you, they must provide their name, the name of the company they work for, and what debt they’re trying to collect. They also have to send you a written notice with more details about the debt within 5 days.

They Can’t Discuss Your Debt With Others

Debt collectors are prohibited from discussing your personal debt situation with others, with some exceptions (like your spouse or attorney). So they can’t go blabbing about your finances to your friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers.

You Can Tell Them to Stop Contacting You

If you want a debt collector to stop contacting you, just send them a letter saying so. They‘re then prohibited from further contact, except to notify you of specific legal actions they plan to takeHere’s a sample letter you can use from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Debt Collectors Have to Follow the Law

This one seems obvious, but it’s important: debt collectors cannot violate any state or federal laws when trying to collect a debt from you. This includes things like making false statements, misrepresenting the amount owed, or threatening illegal actions.

Know Your Rights: Dealing with Violations

So what should you do if a debt collector oversteps and violates the law? First off, send them a letter telling them to stop contacting you immediately. You can find sample letters online like this one from the FTC.You should also file a complaint with:

Keeping detailed records of all your interactions with the debt collector is also crucial. Save any letters, emails, texts, etc. and write down dates/times of phone calls and what was discussed.If the violations are serious, you may want to consult with an attorney like these guys at Avvo about filing a lawsuit against the debt collector under the FDCPA. Successful cases can get you compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and even punitive damages.

Dealing with Creditors vs. Debt Collectors

It’s important to understand the difference between original creditors and third-party debt collectors. Original creditors are companies you originally owed money to, like credit card companies, medical providers, utilities, etc.Debt collectors, on the other hand, are separate companies that creditors hire to collect on unpaid debts. These could be debt collection agencies or debt buyers who purchase delinquent debts from creditors.While the FDCPA only applies to third-party debt collectors, creditors still have to follow other consumer protection laws like the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Truth in Lending ActYou can read more about these laws on the FTC website.So if an original creditor is harassing you or using deceptive practices, you may still have grounds to take legal action even though the FDCPA doesn‘t directly cover them.

Dealing with Debt Lawsuits in Washington

If you’ve been sued by a creditor or debt collector in Washington, don’t panic – but do take it seriously. You’ll want to respond promptly to avoid having a default judgment entered against you.According to this Nolo article, some common defenses in debt lawsuits include:

  • The debt is too old and past the statute of limitations
  • You don’t actually owe the debt
  • The amount being collected is incorrect
  • The creditor doesn’t have proper documentation or chain of title

You may want to consult with an experienced debt defense attorney like these folks at LawInfo to go over your options and defenses.If you do end up with a judgment against you, the creditor could potentially garnish your wages or bank accounts. But there are still exemption laws in Washington that protect some of your income and assetsThis article from FindLaw has more details.

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