When is it Creditor Harassment?
There are typically two main reasons behind why people file for consumer bankruptcy: they cannot pay their debts, and/or they want the collection actions against them to stop. While these goals seem very different on the surface, they both amount to essentially the same thing: debtors who are simply tired of constant bombardment from creditors. (It’s telling that the term “creditor harassment” has become a recognized part of the lexicon, while you’ve never heard a single mention of “electrician harassment,” or “waiter harassment,” or “administrative assistant harassment.”) But when does a creditor’s conduct cross the line? What rules are creditors required to follow?
What Rules Do My Creditors Have to Follow?
Creditors are notorious for their persistence. While persistence can be an excellent trait to possess, it can also verge on (or morph into) calculated intimidation. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was enacted in 1977 to help put a damper on abusive and excessive tactics. Thanks to the FDCPA, numerous debt collecting strategies have been prohibited.
Of course, the laws that are in place to protect you cannot do you much good if you are not aware they exist. In order to make sure that your legal rights as a debtor are always respected, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what creditors are not allowed to do.
Under the FDCPA, creditors must not:
- Call you before 8:00 A.M.
- Call you after 9:00 P.M.
- Call you at work, providing your employer has told them this is not acceptable.
- Cause your phone to ring endlessly, in hopes of annoying or intimidating you into picking up.
- Swear at or insult you.
- Pretend to be a lawyer or a police officer to intimidate you.
- Threaten to have you arrested.
- Send you mail which is prominently marked with the address or logo of a debt collection agency.
In addition to outlining the many things creditors are not allowed to do, the FDCPA also manages the other end of the spectrum.
Under the FDCPA, creditors must:
- Tell you who they are.
- Tell you that any information you share can impact further collection actions.
- Tell you that you have a right to challenge the debt.
- Verify the debt in question.
My Creditors Violated the FDCPA, What Can I Do?
If you do catch a creditor using a tactic which violates the provisions of the FDCPA, there are a few different approaches you can take. Some are more aggressive, while others are more relaxed. You can:
1. Report the creditor the government. The FDCPA is overseen and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can contact the FTC to report the violation. You can also contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
2. File a lawsuit against the creditor. If you can prove that your creditor violated the terms of the FDCPA, you could receive financial compensation for the damages against you. These damages can potentially be in the thousands.
3. Use the violations to negotiate your debt. If you have extensive documentation of creditor harassment, you could use the evidence as ammunition for debt negotiation. Creditors want to avoid a lawsuit just like anybody else.
If you think your creditors may be harassing you, an experienced bankruptcy attorney can step in and handle the matter. Call the law offices of Young, Marr & Associates at (609) 755-3115 in New Jersey or (215) 701-6519 in Pennsylvania, or contact us online. Your consultation will be completely confidential and comes free of charge, so call us right away.