As the economy continues to decline, debt collection agencies seem to exert more and more pressure on the debtors to pay past due bills in the form of creditor harassment. Although debt collection is legal, harassment by collection agencies is not. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) laws were enacted to explain consumer rights and offer protection against illegal debt collection tactics. To protect yourself from creditor harassment, it is important to know common harassment tactics used by creditors and to understand your rights.
Common Forms of Harassment
There are various types of harassment that the creditors impose on the debtors:
- Debt collectors threaten to hurt.
- They come to damage any personal property.
- They use obscene language over the phone.
- They threaten to put the customer behind the bars.
- They make disturbing calls at your workplace.
- They call your family members.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
The FDCPA has been designed in such a way that it can protect human rights against creditor harassment. If the harassment is illegal, the consumers can sue the debt collectors for any kind of damages done either to their personal property or to them. A local consumer attorney can guide the consumers as to whether the case of violation of FDCPA laws against the debt collectors is legal or not. It is important to know your rights under FDCPA before negotiation with creditors on your own.
How to deal with Creditor Harassment?
As a debtor, you have rights, and if you are being harassed by a creditor or hired collection agency, you can take steps to stop harassment and minimize contact. Here are some strategies to help stop harassment:
1. Talk To Your Creditors
Ignoring creditor phone calls or letters can trigger harassment. Even if you don’t have money to pay off a debt, at least talk to your creditors and explain your situation. Agree to pay something each week or month until you’re able to resolve the balance.
2. Demand Proof of the Debt
You have the right to request from your creditor a written letter confirming that you owe the money. If you doubt the validity of a debt, tell your creditors to send something in writing to verify you owe the balance. Creditors and debt collectors must respond to your request within 30 days or stop contacting you.
3.Report the Bad Behavior
If you are the victim of creditor harassment, you can notify the Federal Trade Commission and report the creditors. By law, creditors and collection agencies cannot use profanity, threaten or misrepresent themselves on the telephone, nor can they call before the hours of 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. File a complaint with the FTC (www.FTC.gov) if a creditor or collector violates these rules.
4. Send a Cease and Desist Letter
You have the right to send a letter by certified mail telling the debt collector to stop calling your home. Upon written request, debt collection agencies hired by creditors must stop calling your home. When you work with our law firm, we will send this letter on your behalf requesting that the creditors contact your attorney instead of you.
5. File for Bankruptcy Protection.
Going to your local bankruptcy court to file papers or having your attorney file bankruptcy papers will immediately stop creditor letters and phone calls. While creditors can no longer call or write, they can appear at your bankruptcy hearing in order to collect on a debt.
6. Settle the Debt
Making a full and final settlement to the debt collection agency will close your file completely with the creditor. Although many people do not have the available money to make a settlement, this is by far the quickest way to avoid creditor harassment.
7. Take Creditor to Small Claims Court
A debtor can sue the creditor in the small claims court if he feels that the collection agency does not validate yet contacts for collection, fails to comply with a cease and desist letter, the creditor does not report the credit history properly, or the collection agencies calls your the family, friends and neighbors, or even make calls at odd hours. Small claims court is a legal body who resolves disputes for small amounts of money generally less than $5,000. Small claims courts is therefore less expensive and more affordable for the consumers that regular civil court.
8. Hire an Attorney to Assist You in Debt Solutions
Creditor harassment is something very unpleasant, but there are ways and means to control this activity. When you have an attorney, we can intervene with the creditors on your behalf so that you do not have to deal with them anymore. An attorney can explain many different options for debt relief to help resolve your debt problems effectively.