Being contacted by a debt collector is scary. You already feel the pressure of falling behind on payments, and someone reaching out to you about what you owe creates additional stress.
The law does protect creditors' rights to collect the money they are owed. However, debtors also have rights, including protection from harassment.
The first key to stopping debt collection harassment is to understand what the law considers harassment. If you are indeed being harassed by debt collectors, there are steps you can take to protect your rights – up to and including hiring an attorney.
What Is Harassment?
State and federal laws define unlawful conduct by debt collectors in a variety of ways, including:
- Threats of bodily harm, arrest, garnishing your wages, or suing you
- Using profanity and obscenities in telephone calls
- Lying about the amount you owe
- Misrepresenting themselves as attorneys, law enforcement, or other parties in positions of authority
- Publicizing your debt through internet and social media websites
Debt collectors are exempt from the Do Not Call list, which makes stopping unwanted phone calls more difficult. Even in this case, however, debt collectors are not allowed to engage in unlawful conduct such as calling you excessively, antagonizing your friends and family, misrepresenting themselves, calling during overnight hours when you are asleep, and more.
How Do I Stop the Harassment?
If debt collectors are engaging in behavior like the kind described above, it pays to know your rights. Given the amount of debt held by consumers for medical bills, credit card balances, and other expenses, it's easy to see why creditors and debt collection agencies stoop to aggressive and underhanded tactics to get their money.
In some cases, the first step to end debt collection harassment is telling the debt collector clearly and firmly to stop contacting you. Once may not be enough; it is helpful to follow this verbal demand over the phone with a demand letter sent via certified mail.
You can also submit a complaint online to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB is a government agency providing oversight of financial services and products, including debt collectors.
If you are receiving intrusive phone calls, be sure to document the following:
- The time of the call
- The date
- The name of the person (if not a robocall)
- The phone number on which you received the call (home phone vs. cell phone)
- The conduct of the debt collector (if it's a real person)
Making a record of the calls and voicemails you've received goes a long way toward protecting your rights if you decide to hire an attorney.
How Mehalic Law PLLC Can Help
At Mehalic Law PLLC, we are committed to protecting consumer rights in the face of abusive practices. Federal and state laws are in place to protect against debt collection harassment, but sadly some agencies choose to disobey the law in the hopes of browbeating you into paying up.
Debt collectors do have the right to the money they're owed. However, they don't get to dictate the terms of when you have to pay it back, nor do they have the right to threaten or harass you into paying.
Get the protection you deserve from an attorney with more than 30 years of experience representing consumers like you in debt collection harassment cases. Contact Mehalic Law PLLC at (304) 346-3462 for a free initial consultation. We serve clients in Morgantown, Wheeling, Martinsburg, and throughout West Virginia.