If you owe debt, there are many entities that can get involved in the collections process. Your original creditor may enlist the help of a debt collection agency or a collection law firm. Your creditor knows that a debt collection letter from an attorney’s office may be more likely to disturb you and may use this as a scare tactic. Before you panic, you should understand an attorney’s role in debt collection.
Can a Law Firm Be a Debt Collector?
The debt collection process can involve an attorney. When an attorney is involved, that means that your creditor or a debt collection agency can send you correspondence on the law firm’s stationery. However, this does not necessarily mean that you are getting sued. There are laws preventing creditors and debt collectors from using law firm correspondence in a way intended to confuse or mislead consumers. Therefore, if the law firm is acting only as a debt collector, it must clearly communicate this in the letter.
What Should You Do if You Receive a Collection Letter From a Law Firm?
While a debt collection letter from a law firm isn’t reason to panic, it is something that you should take seriously. Though it doesn’t necessarily mean you are being sued, the fact that the creditor and/or a collection agency have engaged a law firm could indicate that they are close to filing suit. You should read the letter carefully and respond in a timely manner. The letter may be an ultimatum asking you to respond within a certain time frame or risk legal action. If you receive a letter stating something to this effect, you may be facing a lawsuit in the near future if you fail to comply.
What if the Collection Activity Becomes Abusive?
Lawyers involved in debt collection are subject to the same laws as creditors and collection agencies. This means that they are barred from participating in collection activities that could be viewed as abusive or harassing, such as excessive phone calls at unreasonable times of the day or night, or using threatening language.
Owing debt doesn’t mean that you do not have rights. There are federal laws in place to protect consumers who owe debt. Lawyers involved in collection actions must abide by them. Furthermore, it is against federal regulations for creditors or debt collectors to misrepresent themselves as attorneys in order to deceive you. Therefore, if you receive a letter from a law firm, there must be an actual attorney involved in some way in your case.
Contact a law office if you believe you have been deceived by a creditor or your rights have been violated. A bankruptcy lawyer in Melbourne, FL can explain to you your legal options regarding your debt.
Thanks to the Law Offices of Arcadier, Biggie & Wood for their insight into bankruptcy law and collection letters.