Stop creditor or collection agency harassment by knowing your rights and the debt collection laws. Find out how you can stop harassing collection calls.
Now, when more people are struggling to pay off their outstanding bills, some collection agencies are opting for unfair means to collect payments from debt-ridden consumers ignoring the debt collection laws. However, to stop such malpractices and help debtors combat such illegal collection agency harassment, the FTC has come forward with the FDCPA, which gives debtors legal rights to sue those debt collectors who illegally threaten, intimidate or harass them.
Read below to know what a collection agency can't do while collecting debts and how to stop debt collection harassment.
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What the debt collectors can't do while collecting debts from you?
To wipe out abusive, deceptive and unfair debt collection practices undertaken by the collection agencies, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ensured some guidelines for the debt collectors under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). These guidelines help you fight debt collection harassment efficiently. Check out the 10 rules that the debt collectors need to follow while collecting debts from you.
1. Can't ask to pay more than you owe: According to the FDCPA, a collection agency can never misrepresent the debt amount or demand more amount than what you owe. [15 USC 1692e] § 807(2)(a).
2. Can't add additional fees: A debt collection agency can never ask you to pay more than what was in the original loan arrangement (principal, interest rate or other fees). This is not allowed under the FDCPA. [15 USC 1692f] § 808(1).
3. Can't use obscene language: A debt collector can't make use of profane or obscene language while talking to a debtor. According to the FDCPA, using abusive language while collecting debt is illegal and is considered as debt collection harassment. [15 USC 1692d] § 806(2).
4. A debt collector can't call repeatedly: If any debt collector calls repetitively, this is treated as harassment under the FDCPA. [15 USC 1692d] § 806(5). Again, a debt collector is not allowed to call you before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm and on Sundays. [15 USC 1692c] § 805(a)(1). This law has specially been implemented to stop collection calls harassment.
5. A debt collector can't call you at your workplace: Under the FDCPA, a debt collector is not allowed to contact you at your workplace after knowing that you are not comfortable receiving such calls there. Again, unless the debt is past-due child support, a debt collector cannot reach out your employer for the same. [15 USC 1692c] § 805(a)(3).
6. Can't use violent activities: If a debtor doesn't pay the debt, a collector can't make use of violence or other criminal measures to harm the person's reputation, or his physical property. [15 USC 1692d] § 806(1).
7. Can't threat you to sue if it is not intended: A collection agency can't threaten to sue you, cease your property, garnish your wages, or spoil your credit score if it's not intended to be taken. [15 USC 1692e] § 807(5).
8. Can't disclose your debt to a third party: A debt collection agency can't disclose your debts to any third party without your prior permission. However, there are some exceptions. It can be disclosed to the following persons:
- The creditor
- Your attorney
- The creditor's attorney
- Your spouse
- A credit reporting agency
- Your parents (in case you're a minor) [15 USC 1692c] § 805(b)
9. Can't avoid sending you a debt validation notice: Within 5 days of the initial communication, a debt collection agency must send you a debt validation notice. This notice includes the debt amount, the name of the creditor to whom the debt is owed, and a statement that says that if the debtor doesn't dispute the validity of the debt within 30 days, the debt will be assumed as valid. [15 USC 1692g] § 809(a).
10. Can't contact the debtor twice if receives “cease communication” notice: The debt collection agency can contact the debtor only once (via mail) after receiving “cease communication” notice to tell about any one of the following:
- Further attempts to collect the debt are being terminated.
- The collection agency is going to take certain legal actions. [15 USC 1692c] § 805(c)
If a collector does not abide by the aforementioned laws or rules and you face collection harassment, then you can file a lawsuit against him. If you win the case, then the collector will be penalized by the court.
What are the 7 steps you should take to stop harassing collection calls?
Now when you know what the collection agencies can't do to collect money from you, you might be feeling somewhat relaxed. But what if a collection agency goes on harassing you in spite of knowing the FDCPA and debt collection laws? You need to find out ways to stop harassing collection calls in order to have a peace of mind. Go through the following lines to know what you can do to stop collection agency harassment:
- Record all the collection calls, including the ones you make.
- Make a note of the time, date, name of the representative with whom you speak, what is being said, and the name of the collection agency.
- Try to get a witness to the harassment. This might be a family member, friend or neighbor.
- Make use of an answer-phone so that you can screen the numbers from where you are getting calls.
- If the collection agency is not aware of your telephone number, then just dial 141 before making calls to them. This will help you keep back your number from them.
- Try to reach out your telephone service provider and see if they can provide you with the privilege to bar specific phone numbers.
- If the collection agency makes every correspondence in writing, then keep copies of all those correspondence for future reference.
Where should you report creditor harassment?
These days, you can easily report creditor or debt collectors harassment online. However, if you have evidence of the dates, times and exactly what was said, victory can be yours. Below are the organizations with which you can file a complaint of creditor harassment.
1) Federal Trade Commission - Online Complaint Form
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives thousands of complaints each day regarding abusive collection calls. Though it's not possible for them to investigate every single case, if you complain against a specific agency, then they will certainly take necessary action.
2) State Attorney General
You can report creditor harassment to your state Attorney General's office. Visit the official website of your state Attorney General and make use of the online form to register your complaint.
3) Better Business Bureau
Better Business Bureau (BBB) is the place where you can register a complaint against any business. If any collection agency is harassing you, then you can certainly register a grievance with them.
4) The ACA
The Association of Credit and Collection Professionals (ACA) is a collection agency trade association. Even if the collection agency harassing you is not a member of the community, don't hesitate to file a complaint, as in future they will think twice before enrolling them as a member.
5) National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA)
If you are being harassed, you can reach out a consumer attorney for assistance. The National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) is a nationwide organization of more than 1,500 attorneys who represent thousands of consumers victimized by deceptive, abusive and greedy business practices.
What are the possible ways to stop creditor harassment?
If any collection agency is calling you repetitively, you must be thinking of putting an end to those uninterrupted collection calls harassment. Below are some means that you could use against the collection agencies to stop the annoying bill collection harassment.
1) Seek legal help: If the situation is worst and you have no clue about how to deal with the repetitive collection calls harassment, then you should immediately contact a consumer attorney and seek necessary legal help. A consumer attorney can advise you of the appropriate course of action. He can even talk to your creditors /collectors on your behalf and represent you in court.
2) Settle your debts: A debt settlement with the collection agency can be a good solution to avoid creditor harassment. Approach a trustworthy debt settlement company and seek help from them. The company can help you settle your debts by paying much less than what you owe.
3) Take the creditor to Small Claims Court: If you think that the collection agency is breaking the FDCPA laws or you don't owe the debt, you can sue the collection agency in the small claims court. Small claims court is a legal body, which resolves disputes for small amount of money, usually less than $3000. Claims courts are less expensive and affordable for the consumers as getting help from a lawyer is not mandatory. However, since 2010, the costs of filing fees have increased in almost every state throughout the US.
4) Cease & Desist letter: You can send a Cease and Desist letter to the collection agency and ask them to stop all communication with you regarding the debt. Also, tell the creditor/collector to not furnish any erroneous information on your credit report as it's illegal according to the FDCPA.
5) Debt collector phone communication log: Once you have sent a cease and desist letter to the creditor, he should stop all communications including phone calls. After this, you can maintain a phone communication log to fight any further creditor harassment. This phone communication log is intended to maintain the entire documentation of phone calls received. Below is given a sample phone communication log for your convenience.