If you fall behind on debt in Austin, Texas, you may get calls from creditors. Some consumers don’t know their rights and believe they have no recourse to stop the calls. Many debt collectors follow the law, but others do not, and you can take action against the latter.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Congress passed the FDCPA to limit what a debt collector can and cannot do when collecting debt. However, the FDCPA only applies to collection defense against third-party debt collectors and not the original creditor.

The FDCPA prevents certain collection actions, which include using obscene language, make false threats of legal action, calling you repeatedly, threatening violence or harm, and publishing debt. They are only permitted to call you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. unless you have given them permission to call outside of those hours. They may use text messages, social media, and email, but they must give you with an opt out.

While they are allowed to call you at home or work, they can only discuss the debt with you. When the collector calls, they must say who they represent, how much you owe, and that you have 30 days to dispute it.

How to handle debt collectors

To stop calls at work, tell them to stop calling verbally or send them a letter, and they must cease calls. Send a request to stop them from calling your home in writing, and keep a copy of the letter.

If you dispute the debt, the collector must send the requested verification of it within 30 days of contacting you. If you have filed bankruptcy, ensure they have gotten the notice of the automatic stay, which stops collection calls. Report violations to your state attorney general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the FTC.

You may seek damages from emotional stress, physical distress, lost wages, and statutory damages to $1,000. Third parties contacted by collectors, such as coworkers, neighbors, or the debtor’s employees, can also seek the same damages.