How often is it that you are in the middle of work or just spending time with family or friends and your phone rings? More importantly, you rush to pick it up, especially if it is early in the morning or late in the night, concerned someone needs critical aid only to discover it is from a debt collector.
Worse still, you return to office after a client meeting and find your coworkers looking at you strangely till one of them delivers you a message: you have to call the debt collector back at the number given for the overdue debt owed by you.
As embarrassing as it may be, these behaviors leave you with no wish to even verify if you owe the debt, in the first place. You may just want to stop the calls and inquiries immediately.
Debt collection harassment isn’t as easy to stop as you may think. One of the first things that is done to end debt collection harassment is writing to the creditors and requesting a stop in the phone calls. However, statistics available online say that nearly 75% of consumers who wrote to have their debtors stop calling them reported that their request was not honored.
What is debt collector harassment? When the debt collector calls and these calls lead to stress and feelings of dread and fear, it can be termed as facing harassment.
While debt collection by itself is legitimate as a means of recovering dues, harassment to the consumer is totally unwarranted and steps must be taken to stop it from creating a vicious cycle of dread and fear.
Consumer protection laws clearly state that collectors may not abuse, threaten, or harass consumers when making collection-related communication. Further, when asked to stop calling or contacting, the request is to be honored, as per legal guidelines. Clearly though, this is a guideline routinely being ignored, as per statistics revealed in a survey conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB): 40% of consumers surveyed had requested the debt collector to stop contacting them, but only one in four consumers reported that the calls had actually stopped. 40% of the consumers also reported being called as many as four or more times a week.
These figures are collected from about 2000 responses to surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015 regarding consumers and their interactions with debt collection agencies.
Debt Collection: What is Harassing Behavior?
The following constitutes harassing behavior on the part of debt collectors and legal action can be taken on it:
- Making incessant calls to consumers; calling despite receiving requests to stop making the calls, including written requests.
- Calling up late in the nights or early in the morning, for example, before 8 am and after 9 pm.
- Leaving a message about the debt with someone other than the consumer, including their friends or relatives.
- Speaking about the debt in an intimidating manner, using abusive language or making threats to coerce the consumer into paying somehow.
- Threatening the consumer with lawsuits or legal action where none is applicable.
- Not identifying themselves and the entity they are representing for the purpose of the debt collection.
- Using pressure tactics, such as insisting the consumer sell off an asset to pay off the due debt, etc.
These are some of the outlines that are in place to protect the consumer.
However, the CFPB, a body that was instituted to protect the consumers’ in financial matters, deals with debt collection most frequently. The CFPB has brought more than 25 cases against debt collectors for using deceptive practices for collection and recovery purposes. Because monetary compensation is available if debt collection harassment is proved, these cases have resulted in $300 million given to consumers in return for the abuse faced.
As a consumer, what can you do?
Start with knowing your rights. If you or someone you know is facing harassment and trauma at the hands of debt collectors, begin with reporting. Do not lose heart or give in to confusion and stress. Remember, the law is on your side and there are solutions to stop debt collection related harassment .
Here are some steps you can take:
- Write to the agents asking them to stop making contact. You can do this only if they have left behind a contact name and address though.
- Keep records of the written requests. Keep a track of collection calls through phone recordings and bill copies.
- Verify whether you owe the debt or not. It is easy to get confused under stress and give in to even those demands of collectors that are pressuring and unreasonable, which is precisely what a debt collector would like to happen under abusive treatment.
- Talk to a legal professional to better understand your rights and routes open to you and represent a stronger case.
Legal Rights Advocates, PLLC is a law firm that helps clients who are facing harassment from debt collectors in any form, including over the telephone. Our team of attorneys , over the years, has helped countless clients get protections from debt collection practices that are deemed as unlawful and illegal under the FDCPA and TCPA laws.
If you are interested in learning more about how to safeguard yourself better from debt related harassment, call us at (855) 254-7841 for immediate assistance.