When you face the unfortunate situation of falling behind on your credit card, mortgage, auto loan or other bills, you may also find you’ve become the victim of debt collection harassment. The goal of this type of harassment is to annoy, intimidate or bully a consumer into paying off debt.
Debt collection harassment can come in different forms—email, direct mail or texts—but it is most often done by constant, repetitive phone calls. These phone calls are often designed to annoy and belittle not only the person who holds the debt, but also whoever happens to answer the phone. At worst they may contain profane language and threats. They might even contact your friends and neighbors about your debt, seeking to humiliate you.
Fortunately, you have rights. While debt collection agencies are legally permitted to collect the debt that is owed to a creditor, they are not legally permitted to use abusive tactics to collect this debt from you. The Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces something called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This act prohibits debt collectors from using abusive, unreasonable and/or deceptive practices to collect a debt.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, which is responsible for regulating the debt collection industry, there is no other industry that receives more complaints than the debt collection industry. What can you do to stop these phone calls if you feel you’re the victim of debt collector harassment? Here are some tips from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
- Review your rights by reading over the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
- Keep records which will assist you if you should decide to take legal action:
- Keep a file of any letters and communication sent to you by the debt collection agency.
- Write down times and dates of any phone conversations and keep notes on the discussion.
- You may file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. https://help.consumerfinance.gov/app/debtcollection/ask#currentPage=0
- You can write a letter to the debt collection agency (not to the original lender). Sample letters for this type of correspondence can be found on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website. http://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/1695/ive-been-contacted-debt-collector-how-do-i-reply.html
- You may contact your state’s attorney general.
- You can sue the debt collector for violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
Filing for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may also be something you’re considering, which would put an end to debt collectors harassing you. If your monthly expenses exceed your monthly income, your income is less than the median income of your state, or you don’t have many assets, you may qualify for Chapter 7. If your monthly income exceeds your monthly expenses, you may qualify for Chapter 13, in which you plan to repay your debts within 60 months. Filing for bankruptcy temporarily stops a creditor from being able to take any actions against you, your property or your assets.
If you feel you are the victim of debt collection harassment or wish to learn more about filing for bankruptcy, contact the law offices of Parker & DuFresne at 904-733-7766.