Phone harassment over debt is a stressful situation. Debt collectors mailing out notices and calling on the phone only makes things worse.
It’s important to note, however, that you have rights and that there are debt collection laws when comes a point when collection calls become phone harassment.
#1 Contact from debt collectors and your rights
Debt collectors can contact you by mailed letter, in person or telephone, but not by postcard. A majority of debt collection contact in today’s world occurs via phone calls that can progress into phone harassment. When you first receive contact by a debt collector you the have a right to dispute the debt under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA.
Short Video: What Are My Rights And How to Know If They’ve Been Violated?
FDCPA attorney, Jordan Shaw explains in this video your rights and how to recognize if they have been violated.
There are three parts to disputing debt:
- Including your right to notice of the debt
- Right to contest the debt
- Right to verify the debt.
As soon as you dispute the debt, the debt collectors have to cease all collection activities until they show proof that you owe the alleged debt. Once they provide proof, you can decide what to do and if they can’t show proof, they can’t bother you again. These rights under the FDCPA have time limits, so you need to act promptly.
#2 Frequency of debt collection calls
Debt collectors are required to call at convenient times such as between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. if you work a normal shift. If you work the night shift, they must modify their call times to avoid their contact becoming phone harassment.
According to the FDCPA, debt collectors can’t call you continuously or repeatedly with the intention of harassing, annoying or abusing you.
However, it can be a challenge to determine when the calls become phone harassment. The Federal Trade Commission concedes that debt collectors can call more than a single time, but six or more calls in one day may constitute phone harassment.”
#3 Calls at work can be phone harassment
If your employer doesn’t allow personal phone calls and you’ve informed the debt collector of this, they can’t call you at work without it straying into potential phone harassment.
#4 Calling family, friends or employers
Debt collectors can call family, friends or employers under limited circumstances such as calling to confirm or correct contact information. If debt collectors do call, they can’t identify themselves as debt collectors or mention anything about the debt you owe, or contact family, friends or employers more than once, unless you or the person contacted requests it or if they believe they have incomplete or incorrect information.
According to the FDCPA, debt collectors can’t discuss your debt with third parties including family, friends or employers and they can’t contact them under the following circumstances:
• They know how to directly contact you
• They know you have attorney representation
If you have informed the debt collector that you have a debt collection lawyer for representation and they continue to contact you, inform your attorney, as this may constitute phone harassment.
#5 Debt collector pressure and guilt tactics
When they call you, debt collectors may attempt to make you feel guilty about your debt and urge you to borrow money to pay off the debt promptly. They may try pressuring you to pay them off first before you pay other debts and they have various strategies designed to make you feel bad about the debt situation. You need to stay strong in these situations and pay any important debts first and you also need to recognize when debt collectors cross the line into phone harassment and violate the FDCPA.
#6 Debt collector threats
Debt collection calls can be an inconvenience, but you need to know your rights and recognize when they become phone harassment and violate the FDCPA. Debt collectors violate the FDCPA if they use profane/obscene language or if they threaten:
• Arrest or jail time
• Causing injury to you or damage to your property
• Taking of Supplemental Security Income from Social Security
• Sending of falsified information to one or more credit report agencies
• Taking of household furniture
#7 Debt collector false statements
If the debt collectors make misleading and/or false statements, this violates the FDCPA and can constitute phone harassment.
These statements may include but aren’t limited to:
• Mailing fake legal papers or advising you to ignore genuine legal papers
• Falsely claiming to be an attorney or work for an attorney
• Falsely claiming employment with credit reporting agency or government agency
• Inaccurately representing the type, amount and legal status of debt
#8 Debt collector abuse and unfair practices
If a debt collector contacts you or third parties repeatedly with obvious intentions to harass you, this violates the FDCPA.
Other abuse and unfair practices that violate the FDCPA include:
• Calling after you’ve sent a cease letter
• Calling without disclosing who they are
• Collecting fees, expenses interest and other charges not authorized in payment agreement
• Contacting you in a way that reveals to third parties that they’re debt collectors
#9 Stopping debt collector contact
To stop debt collector contact, you need to send them a “cease letter” that states that you want them to cease contacting you, that you refuse to pay the debt or both of those statements. Make a copy of the cease letter and send it via certified mail with a return receipt request.
Upon receipt of the cease letter, debt collectors can’t contact you further unless they’re:
• Informing you they’ll cease contact
• Notifying you that they may or plan to report the debt to credit reporting agencies or file a debt collection lawsuit
When debt collectors who don’t usually sue or follow through on suits attempt to scare you by sending something that says they “may” file a lawsuit, this type of tactic violates the FDCPA.”
#10 When debt collectors continue contact
According to the FDCPA, debt collectors can continue contacting you unless you sent, which is the best way to make them stop any phone harassment. However, if they continue calling you, you have the right to file a lawsuit and request that the court order the cessation of debt collector contact. To file this type of lawsuit you need proof of receipt of your cease letter and proof that the debt collector continued contacting you after receipt.
A return receipt request gives you proof that the debt collector received the cease letter and if they continue phone harassment or contacting through other communication methods, you should log their contact.
Recording phone conversations with debt collectors isn’t legal in all states, so contact a debt collection attorney before you attempt to make any recordings.
Owing debt doesn’t mean you have to suffer phone harassment at the hands of debt collectors. Understanding your rights under the FDCPA gives you powerful tools to protect yourself, your property, and your assets from the questionable practices of some debt collections agencies. Address any uncertainty you have regarding debt collection calls and phone harassment to a debt collection lawyer with extensive debt collection experience and you can avoid compromising your own security and privacy.
Many people struggle with debt at some point in their lives and it’s vital that you remember that it doesn’t make you a bad person, shouldn’t jeopardize your job, and shouldn’t threaten your home, your family, or your life.
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