Have you fallen into debt due to, let’s say, accumulated medical bills or months of unpaid rent? Have you been getting countless phone calls a day from a debt collector? Have you been receiving threats from your debt collector or creditor?
Debt must, of course, be settled or paid. Creditors have the right to send you notices, employ a debt collector, or take legal action. However, like most things, there are restrictions on just how far creditors could go. For instance, while a debt collector can call you to remind you of your payment, they can’t harass you over the phone. Read on to learn more about debt collection harassment and the laws that cover it.
Debt Collection Harassment
First off, what exactly is debt collection harassment? In essence, debt collection harassment occurs when the creditor or their representative will intimidate, coerce, harass, oppress, or abuse consumers into paying off debt.
Debt collection harassment usually happens over the phone. Still, harassment could come in the form of emails, texts, direct mail, or even talking to your friends or neighbors about your debt. For instance, they can call you to remind you of due dates or the like. They can’t, however, call you at work multiple times a day, disrupting your work and discussing your debt with your colleagues or even your boss.
Laws on Debt Collection
So let’s go back to the question: How many calls from a debt collector is considered harassment? Well, the law doesn’t give a specific answer as to the number of calls. A creditor, or their representative, may not, however, call you repeatedly with the intention to annoy, harass, or abuse you or anyone who shares the phone number.
In order to help you take the proper actions, you must first know your rights. There are actually laws that regulate debt collection practices. Here are some of them.
- The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
The FDCPA is the main federal law that governs debt collection practices. It basically prohibits debt collection companies from using abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices in collecting debts. It covers the collection of mortgages, credit cards, medical debts, as well as personal, family, or household-related debts. The FDCPA, however, does not cover debts and also does not generally cover the collection of the general creditor (the person you’re first indebted to).
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors include:
- Collection Agencies or Debt Collection Companies
- Debt buyers (companies that buy past-due debts from creditors or businesses then try to collect them)
- Lawyers who regularly collect debts as part of their business
The FDCPA also specifies what debt collectors can and cannot do. We’ll dig more into that later.
- The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Other Federal Laws
The FCRA is another important federal law that covers how financial matters, including debt collections, can be reported in your credit report. Other federal laws might apply contact to debt collectors and creditors. One such law is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) which states that it is unlawful to engage in any unfair, deceptive, or abusive act or practice. It also granted rulemaking authority regarding such practices to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
- Applicable State Laws
Most states have their own laws regarding debt collection practices which are similar to the FDRCA. Some state laws also cover the original creditor, although others don’t. Some states have Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices Laws that may apply to debt collection. To learn more about such state laws, you may contact your state attorney general’s office.
What Debt Collectors Should and Shouldn’t Do
Debt collectors obviously have the right to explore all means to ensure that debtors settle their debts. Still, there are some things that they should observe when going about their debt collection. Also, there are some things that they are required by law to do when dealing with the debtors.
Here are some restrictions and practices that debt collectors must observe when collecting a debt.
- Proper Time and Place
In general, a debt collector should not contact you at an unusual time or place, especially if they know that it would inconvenience you. Debt collectors are prohibited before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. Moreover, if they know that you are not allowed to take debt collection communications, they are not allowed to contact you there.
- No Harassment of Any Sort
Debt collectors should not harass you in any way, whether through phone calls, emails, texts, in-person, or any other means. They are not also allowed to make contact and harass your family, friends, or anyone else regarding your debt. In the case this should occur, Kiwi Searches is a reliable public search engine to figure out who it is behind any phone call.
- Going Through Your Attorney
Once they know about it, a debt collector is required to go through the attorney representing you. This means that they should stop contacting you and must instead contact your attorney about anything concerning your debt. Of course, there is a chance that a debt collector won’t immediately know about your representation. Make sure then that you inform the debt collector to contact your attorney the first time you get the chance.
- Stating Necessary Information When Making Contact
Every time a debt collector contacts anyone regarding a debt, they are required to state the following information either during the initial contact or through a written notice.
- Name of the creditor
- Amount you owe
- That you can dispute the debt
- In case of a new creditor, that you can request the name and address of the original
- Honoring “Stop Contacting” Letter
You can write a letter to the debt collector telling them to cease any contact with you, especially if there have been cases of harassment. Once you tell a debt collector in writing to stop contacting you, there are only two instances where they can contact you further:
- Tell you that there will be no further contact
- Notify you about any legal action they will take against you
Take note that telling a debt collector to cease all contacts will not prevent them from taking other legal ways to collect your debt. Such actions include filing a lawsuit or reporting negative information to a credit reporting company.
- Honoring Dispute Claims and Information Requests
If you decide to dispute a claim or request information about the original creditor within 30 days of the initial notice, the debt collector must cease all contact and collection processes until the required details and/or verification is provided in writing.
How To Report a Debt Collector
There are several ways and agencies where you can make a report regarding any issues you may have with your debt collector. It will also be wise to seek legal advice and establish a great attorney-client relationship with your lawyer.
Here are some ways on how to report a debt collector:
- Submit a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau online or by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372)
- Report to the Federal Trade Commission online or through their hotline
- Contact your State General’s Office