If you’re behind on paying your debts, the company or business you owe may hire a collection agency to collect the debt. Many collectors strive to make you feel uncomfortable to get you to pay to collect on that debt, which causes you more stress. Unfortunately, this practice can lead to debt collectors using unfair and harassing practices.

Additionally, sometimes debt collectors will attempt to collect on a debt that is not yours. The collector may have mistaken you for someone else, which can leave you having to deal with repeated calls that can be hard to stop.

Signs of harassment by a debt collector include:

  • Using unfair practices, such as contacting third party people like your neighbors, calling before 8 am or after 9 pm, or charging additional interest or penalties
  • Threatening, harassing, or abusing you, including using abusive or obscene language, threatening violence, jail time, personal harm, repeatedly calling to annoy you,
  • Making false statements or claims, like misrepresenting who they are, the amount of debt owed, or the legal status of the debt

Fortunately, you do not have to accept harassment by debt collectors. You have rights. The Federal Trade Commission’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits harassment by debt collectors.

You do not have to put up with harassment from a debt collector just because you owe money. If you feel you’re being harassed, call the Collection Agency Complaints Hotline at (888) 752-3028 to talk to a consumer rights expert on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Update:

As a culmination of 7 years of reports and study, a final rule was issued by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau regarding debt collectors. That rule adds a new layer of requirements on debt collectors regarding their communication with debtors. That rule can be found here: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/rules-policy/final-rules/debt-collection-practices-regulation-f-2020-12/

“Today’s final rule provides clear rules of the road for debt collectors on how to disclose details about a consumer’s debt and informs consumers how they may respond to the collector if they choose to do so,” said Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathleen L. Kraninger. “Our final rule reflects our commitment to ensuring that consumers are better informed; informed consumers are empowered consumers.”

Understanding the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

The Federal Trade Commission’s Fair Debt Collection Practices Act limits what debt collectors can do and say when collecting a debt. It doesn’t allow collectors to use abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices when collecting on a debt. This federal law also gives you protection and rights. By understanding the rules and limits of the law, you can ensure debt collection agencies don’t unfairly harass you.

This federal law applies to anyone who regularly collects on debts owed to others. Therefore, debt collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts, and companies that buy debts to try and collect them all have to abide by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. It applies to various personal, household, and family debts, including credit cards, mortgages, medical debts.

However, this law does have limits. It does not cover business debt. Also, it only applies to third-party debt collection agencies and not the person or business that you are originally in debt to.

Additionally, when a debt collector calls, they are required to send a written “validation notice” to you within five days. This notice should state the name of the creditor you owe, the amount, and how you should proceed if you don’t think you owe the money.

If you don’t want the collector to call you again, you can send this request to them in writing. This letter doesn’t resolve your debt or stop them from collecting your debt. However, it does require them to change how they communicate with you. Another option is to have an attorney represent you regarding the debt. In this situation, the debt collector must work with your attorney instead of you.

This federal law also gives you the right to complain and report debt collectors that are harassing you or breaking the law with their collection practices.

Signs a Debt Collector Is Harassing You

While debt collectors can apply pressure to try and get you to pay a debt, there are limits. However, sometimes when you’re in the moment and already under stress, it can be hard to know what is and isn’t allowed.

Here are common signs of illegal practices to look for if you think a debt collector is harassing you.

Debt Collector Is Using Unfair Practices

The Fair Debt Collect Practices Act requires that debt collectors follow fair practices when collecting on a debt. Some examples of unfair practices that third-party debt collectors are not allowed to do include:

  • Calling you at work or home before 8 am or after 9 pm
  • Contacting you if the collector knows an attorney is representing you
  • Charging additional interest or applying penalties to your debt
  • Depositing a post-dated check earlier
  • Contacting third party people like your neighbors or coworkers, for any reason other than to verify that you are you (e.g., they can’t talk badly about you, say how much you owe, tell them you’re in debt)
  • Going to your place of work to collect the debt
  • Contacting you in ways that intentionally reveal your debt to the postal service workers or your neighbors (e.g., sending a postcard with your debt)

Debt Collector Is Threatening, Harassing, or Abusing You

While third-party collectors can apply pressure, there is a limit. They aren’t allowed to threaten, harass, or abuse you. Prohibited behavior includes:

  • Using threatening or obscene language
  • Causing your telephone to ring repeatedly, or frequently calling with the goal to annoy you
  • Threatening violence or personal harm
  • Threatening to publish your name or information about you
  • Threatening you with jail time if you don’t pay them
  • Threatening to take your property or wages without a court order
  • Threatening to take you to court if they have no intention of doing so

Debt Collector Is Making False Claims or Statements

The Fair Debt Collection Practices does not permit debt collectors to lie to you or make misleading or false claims. Some examples of false statements that debt collectors are not allowed to do include:

  • Misrepresenting the amount of a debt
  • Acting like they are a federal or state government agency
  • Lying about how much you owe
  • Misrepresenting the legal status of your situation
  • Mailing documents that intentionally appear as if they come from a government agency when they do not
  • Claiming to be someone they aren’t

You Do Not Have to Put Up with Debt Collector Harassment

Receiving repeated calls about your debt can make you feel hopeless and more stressed. Fortunately, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act has established limits to third-party debt collectors’ actions and provided you with rights. You do not have to put up with harassment from a debt collector just because you owe money.

By understanding your rights, you can help put a stop to unfair debt collection practices. If you’re being treated unfairly, call the Collection Agency Complaints Hotline at (888) 752-3028 to discuss your situation with a consumer rights expert and end the harassment.

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