What is Debt Collector Harassment?
Debt collector harassment is when a debt collector engages in abusive, deceptive, annoying, or harassing tactics in an attempt to collect a debt that you may owe. This may come in many shapes and forms. Do not subject yourself to bullying or coercion by a debt collector. While a debt collector is legally allowed to make collection attempts on you, they are not allowed to use these harassing tactics in doing so.
What Type of Debt Collection Harassment is Illegal?
- If the debt collector fails to identify itself as a debt collector and tell you that the call is an attempt to collect a debt and anything you say will be used for that purpose.
- If a debt collector threatens you with violent threats or with charging you criminal action.
- If a debt collector engages in the use of any profanity or obscene language or speech in their communications with you.
- If a debt collector makes any false or misleading representations that the debt collector represents a state or federal government
- If a debt collector gives you any misleading information on the amount or legal status of a debt (for example – if a debt was discharged in bankruptcy, they cannot tell you that you still owe a debt)
- If a debt collector falsely implies that they are an attorney, governmental entity, or law enforcement.
- If a debt collector threatens you with imprisonment or criminal charges
- If a debt collector makes excessive calls to your phone
- If a debt collector disclosures your debt to any third party
- If a debt collector calls you after you specify to communicate with them only through writing
- If a debt collector continues to communicate with you after being informed that you are represented by legal counsel.
- If a debt collector has called your job in an attempt to collect a debt from you while knowing that your job does not allow those types of calls.
- If a debt collector threatens to garnish your wages.
- If the collection letter fails to disclose that “this is a communication from a debt collector and any information obtained will be used for that purpose”.
- If a debt collection letter threatens you with jail time, wage garnishment, or violence.
- If a debt collector’s letter uses scare tactics by using the words “litigation” or “legal action”.
- If the collection letter makes it look like it was sent from a government agency.
- If the collection letter misrepresents the amount of the debt.
- If the collection letter does not state the name of the original creditor.
- If the collection letter attempts to collect a debt that you do not owe (for example, a debt that was discharged in bankruptcy or an account that was opened fraudulently under your name).
- If the collection letter tries to collect interest or other “collection fees”.
- If the debt is old and the creditor can no longer sue you for the debt, the collection letter must notify you that the time period for which the creditor can sue you to collect the debt has expired and that any payment would revive the time period that the creditor would have to sue you.
- The G Notice: Within 5 days of a debt collector’s initial communication with you (whether it is a call or a letter), they have to send you a letter that contains all of the below elements informing you of your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:
- Your right to request, in writing, proof of the debt;
- The obligation of the debt collector to provide proof of the debt within 30 days of receiving your request; and
- The obligation of the debt collector to provide proof of the current and original creditor, including their name and address.
- This is discussed at length below.
Failure to Validate
- If a debt collector sends you the G-Notice within 5 days of an initial communication and they fail send you proper validation within 30 days of your written request or continue to make collection attempts on you until they have sent you proof that you own the debt, they are in violation of the FDCPA for failure to validate the debt.
- You must make a written request for validation of the debt to the debt collector after you receive the G-notice.
- A debt collector is obligated to send you proof that you own the debt within 30 days for your written request.
- If you do not receive a response and they continue to make collection attempts, contact a lawyer.
What to do if a debt collector harasses you.
Congress prescribed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the FDCPA, as a mechanism for consumers to sue debt collectors for such harassment. Courts have held that the acts listed above are violations of the law.
In preparation to bring a FDCPA lawsuit against the debt collector, it is important to KEEP ALL RECORDS of your communications with the debt collector. Make note of all the times they call, keep screenshots of calls received, keep all letters, and keep copies of all letters that you sent. Debt collectors typically record all their calls, so do not worry if you do not think that there is evidence of harassment, they usually have that evidence on-hand and are obligated to turn it over in litigation.
Keep track of your damages! The harassment from the debt collector may have resulted in emotional distress or physical distress, or even real world damages. If you have been seeing a therapist or a doctor because of the emotional or physical distress that the harassment caused you, keep all receipts or statements from the doctor and keep note of all the times you have visited them.
If the debt collector has caused you damages by interfering with your everyday life, then make sure that you keep note of those damages, for example, if a debt collector repeatedly called you at work and you got fired because of it, make sure you note that and tell your attorney.
What compensation are you entitled to for debt collection harassment?
The FDCPA allows you to recover multiple types of damages: (1) actual damages and (2) statutory damages.
Actual damages could be things like a job loss, or loss of credit, or perhaps costs you incurred for having to go to the doctor or therapist for your emotional distress.
Statutory damages under the FDCPA entitle you to up to $1,000 that the debt collector owes you for a violation.
Do you need to pay an attorney?
No! Contact us if you believe you are being harassed by a debt collector. We provide free consultations and in the event that we have identified a claim, we never charge our clients up-front. Attorneys in this space do not typically seek payment from their clients. The reason for this is that the FDCPA is a fee-shifting statute where the defendant is responsible to pay the prevailing plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.
We will review your claim at no cost, and in the event that we have identified a claim, we do not charge our clients up-front fees for our representation of them. Fill out the contact form and we will be in touch right away!