No, it most certainly cannot. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t try and use those tactics when trying to collect. Very often, the debt collector will say (either verbally, or in written communication) that it a representative of the US government, and acting under the authority of the Constitution. These threats can be intimidating and/or stressful, but that is exactly why these particular threats are used. Fortunately, they are not only illegal, but more importantly, laughable.
The area of law that covers what a collection agency can and can’t do in their attempts to collect on a debt is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). 15 U.S.C. 1692e (§807(9)) states as follows: A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt…the following conduct is a violation of this section – (9) The use or distribution of any written communication which simulates or is falsely represented to be a document authorized, issued, or approved by any court, official, or agency of the United States or any State, or which creates a false impression as to its source, authorization, or approval.
In other words, if you are debt collector, and you are trying to persuade someone to pay on their debt, you can’t tell that person that you are an official from the FBI and that if the person doesn’t pay tomorrow, they are going to be arrested (unfortunately, I have heard this very story several times from many of my clients). This threat is obviously a misrepresentation (the debt collector on the phone is most certainly not an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation). And the only proper reaction to a phone call like this is to laugh. After a hearty laugh at the absurdity of having received this type of call, you should then realize that since the collector has just violated federal law, he/she should be held accountable for doing so.
This is where the FDCPA comes into play. This is precisely why this law was created in the first place; to prevent against such things happening in the first place. The damages that have to be paid to you (assuming that their wrongful behavior can be proven) is set in the amount of $1,000. But frequently, the underlying debt is also extinguished. In addition, the law states that if the collection agency is proven to have broken the FDCPA, it has to pay for your attorney’s fees. This means that there should be no upfront fees assessed to you by the attorney to handle your case. And in fact you are dealing with a great deal of other debt, there is also the possibility of filing a St. Louis Chapter 7 bankruptcy or a St. Louis Chapter 13 bankruptcy.
The affordable attorneys at The Law Office of Jennifer Alter-Rieken have been making sure that debt collectors uphold the law for years. Our team has a tremendous amount of experience in dealing with collection agencies and their illegal tactics, and ensuring that our client’s rights are not violated. As noted, there are no upfront fees for this type of legal action, and all phone conversations and office consultations are free of charge as well.