Here is a Typical Phone Harassment by Debt Collector case:
You’re on your lunch break at work eating and enjoying your meal when a call comes in.
A pre-recorded voice annoyingly reminding you that this or that bill is overdue.
Or, maybe you got a brand new phone number, but it came with a history.
You instantly started receiving unwanted phone calls several times a day. If you’ve been in either of these situations you’re not alone.
Phone harassment has been rapidly on the rise for several years and consumers complaints have skyrocketed.
The volume of robocalls, (a call that is auto-dialed or uses a prerecorded or computer generated voice), made daily is astounding.
One company recently sued for making robocalls reportedly made over 15 million calls every single day!
Fortunately, you don’t have to put up with unwanted calls.
There are laws in place to protect you on both your home and mobile phone to prevent robocalls and debt harassment.
Read on to learn more about phone harassment laws, your rights as a consumer, and what you can do to stop unwanted phone calls.
#1 The FCC is working to protect you
The FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, is working to stop phone harassment, telemarketing, robocalls or any unwanted calls from interfering with your life.
Through the rules established in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, (TCPA), consumers are offered many protections and safeguards. Enacted due to an increasing number of consumers who complained of receiving unsolicited telemarketing and debt collector phone calls, the TCPA governs residential phones, cell phones, text messaging and faxes.
#2 To call your cell, callers need to get your permission first
Any non-emergency “robocall” made to your mobile phone requires your permission first. Whether the call is informational, or a telemarketing call doesn’t matter.
The business or organization must first receive your permission before attempting to contact you on your cell phone.
This rule applies to political calls, polls, etc. On your landline automated, robocalls are prohibited but you may still receive calls from political organizations, etc.
Watch: What is Prior Written Consent?
“TCPA attorney, Jordan Shaw explains in this short video, what it is and how it applies to the consumer.”
#3 The same rules apply to texting
This same rule goes for text messages. You must first give your permission before receiving text messages from a company or organization.
#4 You will still get emergency calls or texts, but you can opt out of these if you don’t want them
Calls or texts that are for urgent matters or emergency situations are permitted. Mostly for health or fraud alerts these texts or calls must be free of charge and will still come directly to you.
You do not have to give permission to receive Amber alerts, for example. However, you can opt out of receiving them at any time.
#5 You can take away a business’ right to call you at any time
If for instance, when you bought something or signed up for a new service, you gave permission for a store or service provider to contact you via phone, you can revoke that permission at any time.
#6 Reduce phone harassment by joining the DO NOT CALL Registry
To help reduce the number of unwanted calls you receive on both your landline and your wireless phone you can join the DO NOT CALL Registry.
Visit https://www.donotcall.gov/ to register.
It’s free to register and if after being on the registry for 31 days you still receive unwanted calls on your home or mobile phone you can file a complaint.
#7 You cannot be required to give anyone permission to call you
When you buy something or sign up for a service, the vendor cannot require that you give them permission to contact you via phone.
You have the right to state that you do not want to be contacted and the vendor is obligated to comply with your wishes.
#8 You do not need to fill out a form or send a letter to revoke permission.
If you want to revoke permission to call you, you are not required to fill out a lengthy form or mail a letter. You can let the company know in “any reasonable way”.
So, telling a caller on the phone or texting the number to let them know you no longer give permission for them to contact you via phone is sufficient.
#9 Even if you owe a debt there are strict limits on how a debt collector can contact you
Perhaps you owe a debt, and that debt has been handed over to an outside collection company to recoup. You may be receiving phone calls at all hours and that is not okay.
You do not have to put up with phone harassment. You have rights as established under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Jordan explains the differences in calls and how to recognize if your rights have been violated.
So Watch: How do I if my rights have been violated?
“Jordan explains the differences in calls and how to recognize if your rights have been violated.”
Here is a brief list of rules concerning debt collectors and how and when they may contact you:
- They may not call you at inconvenient times, either early in the morning (before 8 am) or late at night (after 9 pm in your time zone) unless you give them permission.
- They also can’t call you in inconvenient places. So, if a bill collector calls you at work, let them know that it’s not acceptable and then they are prohibited from calling you there again.
- They cannot harass you by repeatedly calling you many times a day.
- They cannot threaten you or use profanity.
- They are not permitted to inform other people you know about your debt. Unless they are dealing directly with an attorney you hired to represent you.
- They cannot claim that they will have you arrested if you don’t pay up.
- The debt collector must stop contacting you after receiving your request to do so.
- If you don’t believe you are responsible for the debt and notify the debt collector, they must verify the debt is legitimate before contacting you again.
If a debt collector is contacting you and in so doing breaking any of the above phone harassment laws, report the infraction(s) to your state attorney general’s office, the FTC and/or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Please be aware that stopping a debt collectors’ phone calls will not make the debt go away. You can be sued for the debt and your credit can be damaged.
It’s a good idea to check your credit regularly, especially if you have any collection accounts, you need to know how they are impacting your credit. There are many online companies that offer free credit reports.
However, you need to be careful as some of these could be traps meant to steal your personal identity information.
Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348.
#10 If you believe you are receiving calls in violation of TCPA you do have recourse
First, you will want to take the following steps:
- Get a copy of all phone records that show the calls that are in violation of TCPA.
- Create a written record of the calls you receive, the caller’s identity, the date, the time of day and content of the call. For example, if you let it go to voicemail or asked the caller to stop calling you.
- Save all relevant voicemails.
- If you mailed a letter to revoke your consent to receive calls, keep a copy of it.
Next, you can sue a telemarketer or debt collector for violation of TCPA phone harassment laws.
In fact, the number of consumers suing telemarketers is rapidly increasing as consumers are becoming more aware of their rights.
You may want to consider contacting a TCPA attorney for help. There are many robocall lawsuits pending and you could qualify to join a class action suit.
However, you can also hire your own TCPA lawyer to represent you individually.
You will want to look for a debt collection attorney who is experienced at suing telemarketers and specializes in prosecuting TCPA violations.
Here are some of the damages that may be recovered by suing telemarketers or debt collectors for violating TCPA:
- $500 each time a number on the DoNotCall registry is contacted
- Up to $500 per call that violates the TCPA
- Up to $1,500 per phone call if TCPA was intentionally ignored or violated
If you think you are a victim of phone harassment and are receiving unwanted phone calls or texts on your home or mobile phone.