Many of us find ourselves falling behind financially from time to time. Job loss, unexpected expenses, and health conditions can cause us to be a little short each month. Unfortunately, when we don’t pay bills on time, creditors can become upset and may start contacting you to discuss the situation. However, when these calls, letter or other attempts cross the line, they can be considered harassment and may fall under the category of unfair debt collection practices.
It is not uncommon for debt collectors to harass you at work or during the night while you are at home. Many of these debt collectors even get abusive and start threatening customers, using obscene language or calling your family members and neighbors.
It is important to remember that despite your bank balance, you don’t have to be subjected to this type of harassment. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits this activity.
If you’re doing your best to get your debts paid, and are sick of being harassed, get in touch with an Ohio debt collections lawyer with Luftman, Heck & Associates at (888) 726-3181 for a free and confidential consultation.
What is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was enacted in 1977 to protect consumers from harassment in regards to unpaid debts. Third-party debt collection agencies are not allowed to disclose debts to neighbors and friends. They also cannot call a consumer’s workplace or threaten them in any way.
While you are protected from harassing phone calls, this does not mean that you are not obligated to pay the debt. Ask to get the debt verified in writing. If you do indeed owe the money, work out a payment plan, and you’ll likely get the harassment to stop.
What Constitutes Harassment?
There are things that debt collectors must do, and things they legally cannot do. They must identify themselves, provide verification of the debt, and give the name and address of the creditor. They also need to notify consumers of their right to file a dispute.
If the debt collector does any of the following, it could constitute harassment:
- Call at unreasonable hours. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act allows calls between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. You should not be receiving calls at midnight or 5 a.m.
- Call repeatedly with an intent to harass or annoy the consumer. If you receive 20 phone calls an hour, it’s safe to say that you’re being harassed.
- Use threats of harm, violence, or arrest. You should not be abused during the call.
- Deceive the consumer. Debt collectors cannot lie or deceive the consumer in order to collect money. This includes posing as a police officer or attorney.
- Seek an unreasonable amount of money. If you owed the creditor $5,000 and are now being asked to pay $20,000, something is amiss. It’s reasonable to expect to pay interest and fees, but when the difference is significant, the debt collector is trying to con you.
- Disclose debts to others. Only you should be aware of the debt. Telling friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and employers of your debt is illegal.
- Continue communication after bankruptcy has been filed. Once you file for bankruptcy, the debt collector can no longer contact you.
- Communicate with you even though you have an attorney. Once the debt collector is aware that you have a lawyer representing you, communication must cease.
- Fail to cease communication. If you tell the debt collector to stop calling, he or she should do so. However, they will be able to pursue other options, such as a lawsuit.
Steps to Take
Your first step is to send the debt collectors letters asking them to stop the harassment. By law, they are required to stop. Document all illegal behavior. Keep a log of the calls. You can also let the Federal Trade Commission know about the harassment by filing a complaint online at www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm.
If the harassment is out of control, there is an option to sue the debt collector. The benefit to filing a lawsuit in this instance is that you don’t have to show any actual damages, and, if you win, you could receive up to $1,000. However, in the event of a loss, you may be forced to pay for the debt collector’s attorney and court costs.
Getting Legal Help
If you are continually harassed by debt collectors, take action. Understand your rights when it comes to debt collection communication. You should not live your life in fear of abusive creditors.
Learn more about the debt collection process by contacting an Ohio debt collections lawyer from Luftman, Heck & Associates. We can help you understand your protections under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and get you back on the right track financially.
Debt collectors will go to great lengths to get you to pay up. Don’t be scared by their tactics. Fight back with legal representation from Luftman, Heck & Associates.
Call us today at (888) 726-3181 for a free and confidential consultation.