Having a debt collector ask you for money can feel like harassment if you cannot afford to pay the bill. But what is legally considered harassment and can a debt collector harass you to pay a debt?
Harassing Phone Calls and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law created to help prevent debt collectors from using unfair, harassing, or abusive collection tactics when trying to get a consumer to pay a past due bill. The Act considers phone calls to be harassing if the debt collector:
- Allows the telephone to ring continuously in order to annoy you
- Calls you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
- Uses abusive language, such as telling you to get a job or that you should be ashamed of yourself for not paying the bill
- Threatens you with jail, warrant, or criminal charges
- Uses profane or obscene language
- Threatens to use violence against the consumer
Many other debt collection practices are considered to be harassing under the FDCPA and this is not a complete list of the actions that are prohibited. So can a debt collector harass you? Not if their actions are considered to be harassing by the FDCPA.
How to Stop a Debt Collector From Harassing You
The best way to stop a debt collector from harassing you is to send them a letter telling them that you want them to stop contacting you about the debt. Be sure to keep a copy of the letter for yourself, and send a copy to the Federal Trade Commission at 6th and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20850. Under the FDCPA, once you have notified a debt collector in writing that you want them to stop contacting you, they may only call or write one more time. This communication is limited to letting you know that they received your letter and will stop contacting you and advice you of any other action they intend to take, such as filing a lawsuit against you.
If a debt collector continues to harass you after you have sent them a letter asking them to stop contacting you, you should to consult with a consumer protection attorney for advice on how to proceed.
If you live in California and are being harassed by a creditor or debt collector, please contact our office at 1-800-219-3577, for a free, no obligation case review.