How do you know if you are suffering collection harassment, and when is it time to seek an attorney? If you are constantly harassed, embarrassed, or threatened by collection agencies, it is likely you are a victim. According to an article by ABC News, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) received more than 150,000 complaints about collection agency debt collectors in 2012. The most common complaints are due to profane language, violent and abusive threats, and calls multiple times of the day.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is tasked to supervise the large collection agencies to make sure they are not using harassing or threatening tactics in pursuing collection actions. Further, they are cracking down on collection agencies and making sure they are only using accurate data to pursue debts. The main goal is to police agencies and make sure larger agencies start leading by example. The FTC suggests that if you are a victim of improper collection agency actions you should file a complaint on their website.
The FTC states that no debt collector can call you at any inconvenient times or places. For example; contacting you before 8:00 A.M. or after 9:00 P.M is impermissible. More importantly, any time you are contacted by a collection agency and you wish for them to stop contacting you, you can tell the collector in writing to stop contacting you. Once they receive their notice in writing they are not to contact you again unless to tell you they intend to file a lawsuit, in which case contacting an attorney is advisable.
Coercion through intimidation is never a proper collection agency tactic but is becoming one of the most common approaches collection agencies are taking. Speaking with an attorney will allow you to fight back against these agencies that are going too far. The FTC specifically state that harassment and false statements are always prohibited. If at any time a debt collector uses threats of violence, uses profane language, or calls respectively solely to annoy it is likely you were “harassed.” If the agency falsely claims that you committed a crime, misrepresent how much you owe, or falsely state their identity, they made false statements.
Debt collectors are always prohibited from stating that they will arrest you, threaten legal action (unless they plan on taking legal action), or that they will sell your property or garnish your wages (when not legally obligated to do so). The longer collection agencies are allowed to blatantly violate FTC rules, the more people will become victims.
The most important thing to do is take notes of every call or statements made to you over the phone by collection agencies. This will help you keep track and also give you a record to show an attorney so they can better evaluate your case. The notes you take are critical in filing a claim because it tracks the behavior of the collection agency. If a debt collector brings suit against you, you must respond to the lawsuit either by yourself or through your attorney otherwise you may waive your rights. Don’t let collection agencies go too far, speak with an attorney to stop them from making you a victim of their abuse. By staying informed on what behaviors are inappropriate, you will protect yourself from being taken advantage of.