If you’ve been on the other end of the phone from an aggressive debt collector, you may be left intimidated and threatened. Many consumers are bullied by debt collectors making unending phone calls with threats of wage garnishment and lawsuits.
We can help answer many of your debt collection questions, including:
• What are my consumer rights?
• What are the laws concerning creditor harassment?
• How can I stop harassment from debt collectors?
• How does filing for bankruptcy help end harassment?
• Can you sue a debt collector for harassment?
It’s easy to feel intimidated by a debt collector who represents your creditors, but just because you owe money to someone, it doesn’t mean they have the right to harass and threaten you. It’s important to educate yourself on your federally protected rights to fair debt collection. If you don’t feel confident handling the issues alone, an attorney can help you stop the harassment.
Debt Collection and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
You don’t have to tolerate harassment from debt collectors, and many practices used by aggressive collectors are likely gross violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA.) The FDCPA was enacted in 1978 after evidence was presented to the government of debt collector tactics used against the public that was exposed as abusive, deceptive, and shockingly unfair. The FDCPA was eventually codified as federal law in 15 U.S. Code Subchapter V, and the Federal Trade Commission enforces it. Additionally, California offers further consumer protections in the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (RFDCPA.) Even with these clear legal limitations, many debt collectors still use aggressive and abusive practices hoping that consumers won’t know their rights. So, if you’ve experienced threatening interactions, aggressive phone calls, or harassment from creditors, you may need to consider legal action.
What are Your Rights Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?
Understanding the law and its rights to a consumer is the best first step toward stopping harassing debt collection calls.
The FDCPA states the following telephone debt collection actions are considered illegal interactions:
- Excessive, recurring calls to annoy and harass
- Calls after 9 pm or before 8 am
- Phone contact using profanities or obscenities
- Intimidating phone calls, including threats of violence
- Debt collection from anonymous sources
- Calls to your place of employment (if not allowed)
- Public shaming by publishing private debt information to the public
- Using lies, deceptions, or misleading practices to collect a debt
The following types of practices are considered deceptive, misleading, or false:
- Misleading a consumer about the total debt owed
- Making false claims that the debt collector on the phone is a lawyer
- Making false claims that they plan to have the consumer arrested
- Threatening actions they cannot legally act on or even plan to carry out
Documenting Your Interactions
Did you know federal law protects consumers from harassment and abusive interactions from debt collectors? Being in debt can feel lonely and isolating. If you owe the debt, you may feel as if you deserve these calls, but that’s not true! No one deserves to be harassed and manipulated into paying a debt. If you’ve received a call from a debt collector who has broken the law, you have the right to fight back – even if you owe money to the creditor. Now that you know the FDCPA protects your rights, you should create a contact log documenting your interaction with any aggressive debt collectors.
Your contact log should include the following:
- Information about the call, date, time, and phone number if you have it
- The phone number the debt collector called, for example your mobile or work phone
- The debt collector’s presented name and any other identifying information
- Information about the phone call, including harassing interactions, profanities, obscenities, or threats
Several Steps You Can Take to Stop a Creditor from Harassing You
There are steps you can take to stop creditor calls. For example, if you decide to file for bankruptcy, you can stop creditors from contacting you as soon as your automatic stay goes into effect. The automatic stay tells creditors that your debt is legally managed. Below are several steps you can take to stop creditor calls in the future.
- Review Your Debt Communication: Find out who is calling you and why. You need to know what debts they are handling and if they plan to sue you for the debt.
- Write a Letter to the Creditor: If a debt collector is harassing you, write a letter asking them to refrain from further harassing communication. While it’s legal for the debt collector to contact you, they are not allowed to break the law. The Federal Trade Commission has sued many debt collection agencies on behalf of consumers for this issue. If they ignore your letter, they could face fines, have their business closed, and be sued. Remind them of the law.
- Document the Call: Proving harassment may seem difficult to accomplish, but you can keep a log, have another person present during phone calls, or ask for the debt collector’s permission to record the phone call. These actions alone may lead to a change in behavior immediately.
- Prepare to Sue if Harassment Continues: If debt collectors continue to harass you after you’ve reached out to the agency, you may want to consider suing them. You will need an attorney to get the best result. An attorney can help field calls, send letters on your behalf, and work with you to file for bankruptcy if warranted.
At Financial Relief Law Center, APC, we help clients understand their rights. Our legal team helps consumers fight to end illegal debt collection and harassment. Call today at (949) 570-5466 to schedule a consultation to discuss your situation.