What Is Debt Collection Harassment and How Can You Stop It?

Lenders are entitled to seek the amount of money they are owed. However, there’s a fundamental limit on what they’re legally allowed to do; sometimes, debt collection behaviors become so annoying, aggressive, or inappropriate that they become illegal. And if you’re ever on the receiving end of this debt collection harassment, you’ll have the ability to take action.

The High Level: Contact an Attorney

If you suspect that you’re being treated unfairly by debt collectors, the best course of action is to contact a consumer protection attorney. You don’t need to understand all the nuances of consumer protection laws, nor do you need to fully understand exactly what harassment is or isn’t. Your lawyer can help you understand these topics and guide you in making the correct decision on how to move forward. Initial consultations are usually free, and if you win the case, the debt collectors will be the ones footing the bill for your legal counsel.

What Is Debt Collection Harassment?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers from ongoing harassment, oppression, and abuse from debt collectors. It’s considered harassment if you experience any of the following:

  • Calling without identifying themselves. Debt collectors are required to identify themselves appropriately. If they refuse to give you their name or other information, it could be considered harassment.
  • Repetitious phone calls. One of the most common forms of harassment is repetitive phone calls. Debt collectors may call you very persistently, constantly throughout the day, or at inappropriate times. The hope is that with enough badgering, you’ll eventually be motivated to make payments, but from a legal perspective, this is considered inappropriate harassment.
  • Repetitious electronic communications. Similarly, debt collectors are not allowed to send you repetitious electronic communications. This includes things like emails, texts, and even messages on social media.
  • Profane, obscene, or abusive language. All communications with debt collectors should be formal, professional, and polite. It’s perfectly fine to receive stern warnings, but any profane, obscene, or abusive language should not be tolerated.
  • Threats. As you might expect, any debt collector who threatens physical violence or other harm against you is acting illegally (and unethically).
  • Publishing your name or information. Sometimes, debt collectors will threaten to publish your name or other personal information as a way of shaming you into paying off your debts. There’s nothing wrong with reporting information to credit bureaus, but any other information publishing is considered harassment.

It’s also worth noting that debt collectors are not allowed to use deception to guide you into taking action.

  • Amounts. It is illegal for a debt collector to lie about the amount you owe or otherwise misrepresent the amount you owe.
  • Misrepresentation. Debt collectors cannot misrepresent themselves. For example, they can’t pose as a lawyer in an effort to manipulate you into taking action.
  • Threats of arrest. Some debt collection harassers will threaten to arrest you if you don’t make payments in a certain way at a certain time. However, this is illegal.
  • Threats of illegal action. Any threat of illegal action or action that the debt collector does not intend to take is considered deceptive.

How Can a Lawyer Help?

How is calling a lawyer going to help you?

First, your lawyer will provide you with context and information. They can help you better understand your situation, provide excellent legal advice on how to move forward, and represent you in any lawsuit you choose to follow. If you win the lawsuit, you could be awarded significant damages as compensation.

However, to get the best results, you should do the following:

  • Take action quickly. There is a statute of limitations in play here; generally, you’ll only have a year to take legal action after the latest harassment incident. It’s best to act quickly if you want to see the best results.
  • Keep all records. Start keeping records as soon as possible and preserve those records to the best of your ability. Take notes on all phone calls and communications with your debt collectors so you can accurately report what has happened.
  • Avoid talking to debt collectors. If you’re forced to have a conversation with the debt collector, be careful about what you say; they will likely be making recordings and taking notes as well.
  • Follow your lawyer’s advice. You hired your lawyer for a reason. Take their advice seriously and follow it to the best of your ability.

Nobody should have to deal with debt collection harassment. That’s why there are laws on the books to protect consumers from this nefarious activity. If you believe you’re being harassed by debt collectors, the best course of action is to work with a lawyer and follow their guidance.

Featured Photo by Karolina Grabowska: https://www.pexels.com