Harassed by Debt Collectors?

What a Debt Collector Can and Can Not Do

Debt collectors are regulated by both the state and federal law. Without attempting to sort out the differences between these protections, I will make some general comments about what can and can not be done, from the point of view of a Pennsylvania lawyer.

What a Pennsylvania Debt Collector Is Allowed to Do

Debt collectors are allowed to ask for payment, by telephone or in writing. They are also allowed to sue you in court, if they are the owners of the debt, and not merely collecting for someone else. If they sue and win, they could then attempt to collect the judgment by making a levy on property or a bank account that you own.

What a Debt Collector Can Not Do In Pennsylvania

Harassment: Debtor collectors can not use abusive language, call repeatedly, or at inconvenient hours. They are not allowed to call you at work if you have notified them not to do this.

Continued Contact: A debt collector may not continue to contact you if they know that you are represented by an attorney, or have filed a bankruptcy petition. They also must stop collection if have sent them a “cease and desist” letter (send this by certified mail, and keep a copy), or if they do not respond to a written request for verification within 30 days.

Threats: A debt collector may not threaten actions unless they intend to actually do this, & have the legal right to do so.

Contacting Other Persons. They cannot contact persons other than yourself, or any co-signers, except when they are unable to locate you. Even then, they are not allowed to tell the other person that you owe a debt.

Can a Lawyer Help With Debt Collection Problems?

There are several things which a Pennsylvania lawyer might do to help with debt collection problems. When a debt collector is notified that you are represented by an attorney, they are required to stop contacting you, and contact the attorney instead. If they have violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, or Pennsylvania’s Consumer Protection laws, a Complaint might be filed against them, asking, among other things, for money damages or statutory penalties. If you are sued in Court for a debt, a lawyer could defend or settle the case. If your situation justifies it, a bankruptcy petition could be filed.

Zombie Debt

Zombie debt refers to debts that are very old. Unless they have filed a lawsuit within the statute of limitations, they are barred by the statute of limitations. Debt collectors have been allowed to ask for payment on these old debts, however they cannot threaten to sue you, or take any other action which they are not legally allowed to do. Anyone who is getting collection calls about these kinds of old debts should consult a debt collection lawyer.

Payday Loans In Pennsylvania

Payday loan collectors tend to tell a lot of lies. Payday loans are not legal in Pennsylvania. Some Payday debt collectors have been known to threaten, or at least suggest that they are going to have you arrested. Because an unpaid debt is almost always a civil case in Pennsylvania, not a criminal charge, this is simply a technique used to scare people into paying.

Wage Garnishment In Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has strong protection against wage garnishment. In general, creditors can not garnish your wages. There are only a few exceptions:

  • Alimony or child support payments
  • rent on a residential lease
  • fines and court costs in a criminal case
  • student loans
  • State or Federal Taxes

Social Security benefits also have strong protections: ordinary creditors may not take them from you, or levy on bank accounts containing social security benefits.


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