Being subjected to harassment from a bill collector does more than just create additional stress. It can lead to the invasion of your privacy, the loss of your job, bankruptcy, and even marital strain or divorce.
While creditors can legally make repeated attempts to collect or authenticate a debt, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), on the other hand, considers certain kinds of communication by debt collectors to be unethical and does not allow it.
The majority of debt collectors are aware that debtors are protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and follow federal legislation when attempting to collect a debt.
That said, some creditors step out of bounds and engage in harassment or abuse to force someone to make a payment. Here’s what you should know about creditor harassment and what you can do about it.
Identifying Debt Collection Harassment
Understanding what debt collection harassment is and how to identify it is critical to protecting your debtors’ rights. Ideally, you will be able to immediately know whether or not a bill collector is crossing the line and can call them out on their behavior in real time.
Examples of Creditor Harassment
Not all debt collector harassment looks the same. However, some of the most common examples of it include:
- Receiving calls from the same creditor that are made repeatedly with the purpose of annoying, intimidating, or bullying you or someone else who answers the phone into making a payment
- Having creditors verbally accost you with profane or obscene language
- Receiving threats of harm, harm to your family, threats to doxx or reveal private information about you
- Having your name and other information published on a publicly accessible list of debtors to mock or shame them (this does not include credit bureau reporting)
- Receiving phone calls from creditors who refuse to identify themselves
Creditors are also prohibited from engaging in false, dishonest, or misleading actions to collect a debt, according to the FDCPA. This includes attempting to deceive you or misrepresent the debt or themselves. Debt collectors may try to lie to you about:
- How much you actually owe
- That the creditor is an attorney when they are not
- The ability to have you arrested or charged with a crime if you do not pay (this isn’t true)
- The scope of how the debt can be collected; for example, they may not threaten to freeze your bank account if they do not have the authority to do so)
What You Can Do to Stop a Debt Collection Agency from Harassing You
Even though state and federal laws protect you from unfair debt collection practices, some bill collectors will hedge their bets on you not understanding your rights and going along with whatever they tell you out of fear. If you are being continually harassed by a creditor, here are some things you can do.
Steps to Take
Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from debt collector harassment:
Send a Formal Letter
You can send a formally written letter to your creditor requesting that they cease communication with you. You can state in the letter that you are aware of your rights and they have engaged in harassment, and you will be pursuing further action if they do not comply. Keep a copy of this – and everything else – for your own records.
File a State Complaint
You can file a complaint about creditor harassment with your state before filing with the Federal Trade Commission or at the same time. You can also file only a state complaint if you prefer.
In Massachusetts, you are protected from debt collection harassment by the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). You can report creditor abuse to the Attorney General.
New Hampshire also has its own legislation to protect residents from unscrupulous bill collectors, called New Hampshire’s Unfair, Deceptive, or Unreasonable Collection Practices Act. Violations are reported to the NH Consumer Protection Bureau.
File a Federal Complaint
You can file a federal complaint against an abusive debt collector by reporting directly to the Federal Trade Commission using their online form, or you can contact the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Hire a Debt Collection Attorney
Often, dealing with the red tape of filing a complaint with the necessary state and federal authorities to stop creditor harassment is as stressful as dealing with the harassment itself. If you need help navigating the process of reporting an abusive bill collector, a debt collection attorney can be an excellent resource.
How a Massachusetts Debt Collection Attorney Can Help You Today
Dealing with creditor harassment or abuse can make you feel ashamed and angry when you’re already frustrated and struggling to meet your debt obligations. Being harassed by a bill collector isn’t typically helpful at solving the problem, however, creditors continue to do it anyway.
If you’ve been harassed or abused by a bill collector, one of two things should occur. First, the harassment needs to be stopped. Then, it should be determined if the abuse caused you any financial or emotional damages. If you can prove to a court of law that you lost your job, became depressed, or otherwise tangibly suffered as a result of creditor harassment, you may be able to sue for compensation.
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we are seasoned New Hampshire and Massachusetts consumer protection attorneys and can help you stand up to unfair debt collection practices. We’ll zealously go to bat for you, even against large creditors with multi-attorney legal teams.
Contact us today to learn more about your rights as a debtor against harassment or to schedule your consultation at (978) 744-8000 or toll free at (855) 693-9084.