This article was last updated on October 17
One of the worst forms of creditor harassment is relentless debt collection calls. For some people, the collection calls become so annoying that they are forced to change their phone numbers or even disconnect the phone altogether. Though the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) has laid down clear guidelines to put an end to such calls, the collection agencies hardly bother to pay heed to these rules.
When can the collection agencies call?
First of all, they can’t call you for a debt that you do not owe. If they call, you have the right to verify if the debt is yours. Debt collection agencies are required to follow certain rules. They can’t call you before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. They are not allowed to call you repeatedly and they can’t call you at a time which has previously been stated as inconvenient by you (e.g. at work). You must state this orally or in writing to legally bind them to this.
The creditors have a legal right to collect the debt. However, it does not mean that they can engage in illegal tactics. You should not allow yourself to be bothered by these collection calls as there are various ways that you can employ to stop creditor harassment.
How can you stop collection calls?
You can always seek the help of a reliable debt settlement company to put an end to such calls. However, there are some points that you should keep in mind to handle the collection calls yourself.
1) Know your rights: The first step is to get yourself informed. It is illegal for a collector to use abusive language and the federal laws prohibit collection agencies to make such calls. The FDCPA is the main legislation that covers this area.
2) Know your state’s laws: It is always wise to know what an individual’s state laws have to offer to him. Some activities of the collector may not be covered by the FDCPA and the state laws may guarantee a wider protection to him. To find your state laws Google the state name with the phrase “debt collection laws” For example to find the laws in New York, I googled “NY debt collection laws.” Make sure you go to the search results for sites with .gov or .org in their name, because these are likely to be the official government sites.
3) Communicate through writing: Resort to written communication while dealing with the collection agencies. Send a ‘stop collection letter’ to the collection agency by a certified mail and ask them for a return receipt. This acts as a proof that you have notified them about their illegal practice. Written communication allows you to have a record of everything and you could produce these if the collection agency violates the FDCPA. Here is an example of a letter you can use. Send the letter by certified mail, and pay for a “return receipt” so you’ll be able to document what the collector received.
City, State, Zip
Name of Collection Agency
City, State, Zip
Re: Notice to Cease Contact: Case # ________ (if you don’t have a case number, use date of last contact)
To [person whose name appears on agency’s notice to you]:
On [date] I received a written notice of the claimed debt, a copy of which is attached.
This is to give you notice to cease all contact with me or anyone else except the creditor about this claimed debt. If you must contact me, please do so in writing and not by telephone.
I look forward to your acknowledgment that you have received this notice by [date that is two weeks from date of letter].
4) File a written complaint: Some collectors continue to harass you even after you have requested them to stop. In such cases, you can file a written complaint to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) and/or at your state Attorney General’s office. Many states have their own debt collection laws that are different from the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Your Attorney General’s office can help you determine your rights under your state’s law. The FTC does however advice that if a collector contacts you about a debt, you may want to talk to them at least once to see if you can resolve the matter – even if you don’t think you owe the debt, can’t repay it immediately, or think that the collector is contacting you by mistake. If you decide after contacting the debt collector that you don’t want the collector to contact you again, tell the collector – in writing (per the previous point) – to stop contacting you.
5) Record the phone conversation: Inform the caller at the beginning itself that you are recording the call. This can again act as a proof to file a formal complaint with the State Attorney General or the FTC. This will prevent the caller from resorting to illegal activities while making the call.
6) Ask for identity and set up phone call filtering: Ask the caller to provide his/her identity. You can weed out a large number of collection calls by setting up ‘anonymous call rejection’ with the help of your phone company. If the caller’s identity information is not displayed, the phone will not ring.
7) Sue the debt collector: You have the right to sue a collector in a state or federal court within one year from the date the law was violated. If you win, the judge can require the collector to pay you for any damages you can prove you suffered because of the illegal collection practices, like lost wages and medical bills. The judge can require the debt collector to pay you up to $1,000, even if you can’t prove that you suffered actual damages. You also can be reimbursed for your attorney’s fees and court costs. A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower. But remember even if you can prove the debt collector broke FDCPA rules , the debt does not go away if you owe it.
The easiest way to stay away from collection calls is of course by never applying for credit. Unfortunately, once you get into the hole it is difficult to prove that you are a victim of creditor harassment. The collection agencies know this and therefore, keeping the above mentioned points on your mind is a good way to keep away from the bothersome collection calls.