Debt collectors can seem like the worst. While on one hand, you feel guilty that you’re in debt and haven’t been able to pay, you also can feel victimized when they won’t leave you alone. Some of these debt collections agents can get belligerent and even be threatening as they pursue you for the money you owe.
They do this because they get away with it and many people don’t realize that there is a line these agents are not allowed to cross. Explore your options when you’re faced with an abusive debt collector, how you can put a stop to the calls, and how an attorney can help.
Fair Debt Collections
There are laws on the books that protect people from abusive debt collectors. These statutes are contained in 15 U.S.C. section 1692 and are collectively known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This federal act covers those debt collectors who are employed by collection agencies, but not those employed by the original creditor.
This is an important distinction: debt collections agencies buy your original debt from the original lender, usually for pennies on the dollar, and then come after you for payment, making a massive profit in the process. These are the companies that are regulated by the collections act (and are also the ones most likely to behave in a threatening or unprofessional manner).
Prohibited Collections Practices
There are a number of collections practices that are prohibited under the FDCPA. These include:
- Calling you repeatedly
- Calling you before 8am or after 9pm
- Failing to identify themselves as debt collectors
- Contacting you at your job (if your employer forbids it)
- Using abusive, obscene, profane or threatening language
- Threatening or using violence
- Try to collect more than you actually owe
- Claim to be attorneys or threaten you with legal consequences
- Send you anything that masquerades as legal documents
- Contact any third party except for finding information about your whereabouts. They can, however, contact spouses, parents (if you are a minor) and co-debtors unless you have informed them in writing that they are to cease contacting you.
If a debtor violates fair practices in any way, you can tell them in writing to stop contacting you. At that point, they are legally prohibited from contacting you except to notify you that they aren’t pursuing collection efforts further, or that they are filing suit or pursuing other legal remedies against you.
Many debt counselors recommend talking to debt collectors and negotiating with them, whether it’s yourself or with an attorney. Hiding from them can lead to greater consequences.
Keep Track of Illegal Behavior
Document every violation the moment it happens. Keep a log with time, date, and a detailed account of the violation, including witnesses. Any time you speak to them thereafter, have another person present to witness the discussion.
You can file an official complaint about the behavior with the Federal Trade Commission by letting them know the agency’s name and address, the collections agent’s name, the date, time and circumstances of the violation, and the names of witnesses. Include any backup you have for the offending incident. Send copies to the FTC, state regulatory agencies, and the collections agencies. In some cases, the creditor may cancel the debt when faced with liability.
File a Lawsuit
If you can document the abusive behavior, you can file a civil lawsuit against the agency. If you win the case, you may be entitled to damages including any financial losses you have suffered and up to $1,000 additional for a violation of the FDCPA.
For help dealing with an abusive debt collector, consider speaking to an attorney at Disparti Law Group. Check out our legacy of successful results and get in touch for an evaluation of your case today.