What Constitutes Creditor Harassment?
Financial struggles are immensely stressful. Whether it’s because of credit card debt, mortgages, student loans, or past-due service bills, harassing phone calls from creditors—also known as debt collectors—can increase anxiety.
Creditors are people you owe money to. If you owe money to a creditor and avoid/stop making payments, they can take action against you in order to get their money back.
However, not all activities that a creditor takes can be called harassment. Debt collectors are allowed to take reasonable steps to obtain the money you owe, such as calling you to ask for payment, sending payment demands or reminders, calling your home during a reasonable time of day, or taking court action.
While persistent attempts to collect from you is considered legal, harassment by creditors is illegal and is not tolerated by the Federal Trade Commission. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was established to protect consumers from creditor harassment by prohibiting specific debt collector behavior.
If the creditor attempts to do any of the following things to try and get you to pay back the money you owe, this could be considered harassment:
- Calling you several times a day, or early in the morning or late at night
- Giving you the impression that court action has been taken against you when it hasn’t
- Pressuring you to sell your home or take out more credit
- Giving you the impression that not paying the debt is considered a criminal offense, when in fact it is not
- Threatening you verbally or physically
- Pursuing you through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
- Not informing you if the debt has been passed on to a debt collection agency
- Using more than one debt collector at a time to attempt to obtain payment from you
- Telling someone else about your debts or using another individual to pass on information to relay to you, such as a family member or a neighbor
According to FDCPA regulations, debt collectors are required to do the following:
- Identify themselves during every single communication with the consumer
- Inform the consumer that the communication is from a debt collector and that any information obtained will be used in efforts to collect debt
- Provide the name and address of the original creditor
- Notify the consumer of their right to dispute the debt—whether in part or in full—with the debt collector, who needs to give this notice within five days of the initial communication with the consumer. Upon receiving the notice, the 30-day period starts in which the consumer may demand verification of the debt from the creditor.
- Provide verification of debt.
- File a lawsuit in a proper venue.
If you feel that you are being harassed by creditors, you need to first determine who is actually collecting the debt. Then you need to collect evidence of the harassment, complain to the creditor, and then complain to a professional body.
Evidence consists of recordings of visits of calls with dates and times, any letters or documents you have received, and witness statements from neighbors and those who live with you. Once you’ve compiled the evidence, request the creditor to stop harassing you in the form of a letter, pointing out that harassment is a criminal offense and you can take further action if your creditor refuses to stop. If your debt collector belongs to a trade association or professional body, you can complain directly to them as well.
For more information, contact Atlas Consumer Law and request a free consultation with our Illinois consumer attorney today.