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Miami area residents may have heard of a recent Federal Trade Commission lawsuit that cost a harassing debt collection agency $1 million. The company not only harassed people with text messages, it also violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by informing the friends, co-workers and family members of indebted consumers of the debt.

This is the first time that texting has been involved in an FDCPA lawsuit, but the suit was not aimed at the texts themselves. The suit focused on privacy violations and the collection agency’s attempt to pass itself off as a legal office. The Federal Trade Commission has forced the company to change its name, which included the word “attorney,” as well as pay the $1 million fine.

The FDCPA was created to give consumers protection from excessively harassing debt collectors. One of the provisions in the law is that consumers do not have to engage with debt collectors at inconvenient places, such as the consumers’ places of business. This restriction includes phone calls, text messages, faxes and email, since personal communication at the workplace is often restricted to emergency communication only.

Consumers who receive debt collection phone calls, texts or other harassing communication at work could make sure that the collector understands that personal communication on the job is forbidden. Debt collectors know that they can face legal action for a variety of damages when they violate FDCPA, but they do not know which consumers are aware of the law. If harassment occurs, an attorney may be able to inform the consumer and the collection agency of the extent of the violations.

Source: Daily Finance, “Text-Messaging Debt Collector Hit With $1 Million Fine for Posing as Law Firm“, Matt Brownell, September 26, 2013