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Stopping Creditor Harrasment

January 8, 2020 in General   5 min read

If you've reached the point of considering filing for bankruptcy, you are probably all too familiar with harassing telephone calls from various creditors. The calls can be stressful and sometimes downright abusive. But as a consumer, you have rights and protections that were put in place to stop creditor harassment. Let's take a look at those rights.

Why Are Some Callers So Aggressive?

If you've been struggling with debt for some time, you've probably noticed that the calls regarding your debts have gotten more frequent and more aggressive over time. If you owe money and are behind in payments to Big Credit Card Company X, they have an employee in the collections department call you. This person is trained in collections and largely gives you a scripted spiel. They're professional and work for a big corporation.

But if you don't pay the bill, eventually the credit card company writes your debt off and sells it for pennies on the dollar to a debt collection company. All this company does is try to collect debts. Its employees are also trained and while more aggressive than the people from the credit card company, still pretty professional.

If that company fails to collect any money from you, they may write off the debt and sell it to yet another debt collector. And oftentimes, this third party is a single person who owns their own business and that business is collecting “dead” debts.

The first two kinds of people you talked to get a paycheck whether they collect any money from you or not although in some cases, they may also earn a commission based on how much debt they manage to collect on top of their regular pay. But this third person, only makes what they can collect from you. You owe that person money now and they have a much more personal stake in collecting. These are the most aggressive type of debt collector because, for them, it’s personal. That’s why their tactics are so aggressive and it can be scary and upsetting. All debt collectors are governed by certain rules which we’ll explain but these third party collectors often count on consumers not knowing these rules and they frequently skirt or outright flout them.

Even in the day and age of cell phones and caller ID, when we can choose to simply not answer calls we know or suspect are from debt collectors, the constant calls and nasty messages can be distressing.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law enacted to limit the behavior and actions of debt collectors who are attempting to collect debts. The law limits the means and methods that collectors can use to contact debtors and the time of day and number of times they can contact debtors. If a debt collector violates the FDCPA a suit can be brought within one year against the collection company and the individual debt collector for damages and legal fees.

The  FDCPA forbids harassment and misrepresentation which includes the following:

  • Repetitious phone calls that are intended to annoy, abuse, or harass
  • Obscene or profane language
  • Threats of violence
  • Publically publishing the names of people who don’t pay their debts
  • Calling without identifying themselves  
  • Cannot lie about the amount of debt owed
  • Cannot represent themselves as an attorney if they are not
  • Cannot make false threats to have you arrested
  • Cannot make threats to do things they cannot legally do
  • Cannot make threats they have no intention of following through on

Stopping Creditor Harassment

If you feel a debt collector has crossed over from using legitimate methods to abusive ones, you can take action.

Keep records: Keep all paper correspondence. When a collector calls, get their name, the name of the company they work for, and a call back number. Make notes on each call. You can also use a call recording app. Some states are one-party consent states meaning you can record the call without informing the other party that you’re doing so. Some states require consent. Be sure to look up the laws in your state. If you’re receiving text messages from debt collectors, screenshot the texts. All of this documentation will be necessary should you decide to file suit against a harassing debt collector.

Ask for verification of the debt: Once you’ve been contacted, a debt collector has five days to provide you the amount of the debt and the name of the creditor. You then have 30 days to dispute the debt’s validity. If you dispute the debt or request verification, the collector must cease all collection activity until you have been provided with that verification.

File for bankruptcy: Almost immediately after you file for bankruptcy, something called an automatic stay goes into effect. This means that debtors are forbidden to contact you regarding your debt. They cannot call, send you letters, texts, or emails. If the contact continues, explain that you’ve filed for bankruptcy. If the contact still persists, keep detailed records of it as advised above. Notify your bankruptcy attorney of the ongoing contact. He or she will inform the bankruptcy court and begin necessary legal proceedings to sue that creditor for harassment if you so choose.

Know Your Rights

You may have fallen on hard financial times but that does not mean you deserve to be harassed or abused by aggressive debt collectors. Know your rights so you don’t have to add this kind of behavior to an already stressful situation. 


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