Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA (15 USC 1692) is a law enacted in 1978 designed to protect consumers against abusive practices by Collection Agencies. In the event that a consumer defaults on a debt and that debt is transferred to a collection agency not owned by the original creditor, the FDCPA governs the rights a consumer has in dealing with the agency. The Act prevents collection agencies from contacting the consumer at an inconvenient time or place, use harassing or threatening language unless the collector actually intends to follow through (eg threatening to file suit but having no intention of doing so), and allows the consumer the right to dispute the validity of the debt. The FDCPA provides that when a collector violates the law that the consumer will be awarded statutory damages of up to $1,000, actual damages in an amount proven to the judge or jury, reasonable attorney's fees, and costs of the action. 15 U.S.C. 1692k.
Despite being in force for 30 years, there are still many violations of this law committed by unscrupulous collectors every year. In 2006 there were 69,000 violations reported to the FTC. 
- Federal Trade Commission Annual Report 2007; Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved on 2007-08-24.