If your debts have spiraled out of control and your bills are piling up, you may be getting those rude phone calls at all hours from aggressive debt collection agencies. If that happens, you should arrange to discuss the situation with a Chicago debt collection attorney.
If you work hard to meet your debt obligations, you shouldn’t be getting debt collection calls at your job or late at night. Even if you are facing some serious debts, you should not have to deal with deception or verbal abuse from a debt collector.
You are protected in Illinois from abusive debt collection practices by the Illinois Collection Agency Act (ICAA). Exactly how does this law protect Illinois consumers? What are your rights if you are being harassed by debt collection calls?
And what steps can you take to deal with your debts and have financial freedom once again? If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you’ll learn more about your consumer rights in the State of Illinois.
What Does the ICAA Require?
The Illinois Collection Agency Act requires debt collectors to be licensed. It regulates debt collection practices in this state, and it limits the ways that debt collectors may contact and communicate with you.
The ICAA also spells out how you may contest the legitimacy of a debt if you believe that you have paid the debt or that the debt is not yours. However, not every lender or debt collector in Illinois is required to comply with the ICAA.
How is a “Debt Collector” Defined by the ICAA?
The ICAA deals only with companies in the debt collection business. The ICAA does not apply to the businesses and individuals listed below:
1. banks, loan companies, and credit unions
2. billing companies that only send account notices
3. homeowners’ associations (called “unit owners’ associations” in the ICAA)
4. real estate brokers
5. retailers attempting to collect their own debts
7. “original” creditors
The original creditor is the company that gave you the loan or credit. An original creditor may attempt to collect a past due debt or account itself, or it may hire a debt collector. A debt collector is generally a third party who has been contracted to collect your debt or account.
Hired, third-party debt collectors in Illinois must obtain a license and comply with the ICAA. The ICAA has also been amended to include debt collectors that now own debts after purchasing those debts from original creditors.
Does the ICAA Apply to Collectors of Child Support Debts?
Collectors of child support debts are specifically exempted from most of the ICAA’s provisions. There is no limit to the number of times they may call you. They’re also allowed to contact your employer and to publish your name in lists with others who owe child support debts.
If you believe that a child support collector has violated the law in contacting or communicating with you, arrange to discuss the matter with an Illinois debt collection lawyer.
How Does Illinois License Debt Collectors?
Before it takes on any clients or collects any debts, a debt collection business with offices in Illinois must be licensed. An unlicensed debt collector in this state may be fined up to $5,000 for each violation of the ICAA.
When a debt collection business that is licensed and located in another state contacts you in Illinois by phone or by mail, provided that the debt collector is licensed in the state where it is located, no Illinois license is required.
What Debt Collection Practices Are Prohibited by the ICAA?
Debt collectors in Illinois are never allowed to be abusive, to use force or violence, or to threaten to use force or violence. What follows is a list of debt collection practices that are specific violations of the ICAA.
Debt collectors may not:
1. use profane or obscene language
2. threaten you with arrest or prosecution without a basis for a criminal complaint
3. threaten to seize your property without saying that they first must obtain a court order
4. threaten to publish your name or tell others that you refuse to pay the debt
5. use fake legal documents
6. pretend to be an attorney
7. pretend to represent a law enforcement agency or any other government agency
Additionally, a debt collector may not add or threaten to add charges or fees to the debt unless your contract with the original creditor permits it, and the fees or charges are reasonable.
What Else Does Illinois Require of Debt Collectors?
The State of Illinois requires debt collectors to identify themselves clearly by using the licensed name of the agency. They are also required to maintain precise records of their contacts with you.
Additionally, the ICAA requires debt collectors to provide you with the following within five days of first contacting you:
1. the amount you owe
2. the identity of the original creditor
3. a formal notice that you have the right to contest the debt
Frequent contacts that may constitute harassment are violations of the ICAA, although the law does not spell out an exact number of contacts that are allowed.
Phone calls between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. are allowed, but no call may be made with the intention of annoying, harassing, or abusing you. If a debt collector is aware that your employer does not permit personal calls at work, the debt collector may not call you there.
Will You Need an Attorney’s Help?
If a debt collector knows that you are represented by a Chicago debt collection attorney, the debt collector may communicate only with your attorney. But even if you are able to stop a debt collector’s harassing phone calls, if the debt is yours, it isn’t going away.
An Illinois debt collection lawyer can also review your financial circumstances and discuss your options for dealing with your debts. One of those options may be bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy isn’t right for everyone, and it has some genuinely negative repercussions, but when the bankruptcy process is complete, you’ll have a fresh start financially, and you’ll be able to establish your credit – and experience financial freedom – once again.
If you want the rude phone calls to stop, and if you want to deal with your debts, now is the time to contact a debt collection lawyer or an Illinois bankruptcy attorney. Having a good attorney’s advice and representation is every Illinois consumer’s right.