Getting harassed by debt collectors? Don’t despair and for god’s sake don’t be embarrassed. Ever since the economy collapsed under the weight of George W. Bush’s commitment to making the rich richer and the middle class poorer, people who never had to deal with debt collectors and credit counseling before are getting harassed as if they were the ones responsible for creating the misery of closed businesses, lost jobs, scaled-back working hours and imploding salaries. If you are truly being harassed by debt collectors and want to call off the dogs because you know you will be more than happy to pay off your debts the minute those who caused the Great Recession fix the widespread effects of their unbounded greed, then here are tips you really do need to know. All the following are clear violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) as strictly lined out in their guidelines.
Any Example of Clear Harassment or Intimidation is Against the Law
Every possible form of actual antagonistic harassment is against the law. That means no individual bill collector and no debt collection service is legally protected when they make any kind of threat towards you. Debt collectors are prohibited from using profanity or any kind of intimidating language or vocal volume when they make their daily calls to you. If a debt collectors threatens to come to your place of business and expose your debt situation, they have broken the law.
Threats Against Your Wages or Assets
A very popular means of forcing you to pay off a debt even though your credit report clearly indicates you not have the requisite funds to do so is garnishment of your wages or attachments made against your assets. While garnishing wages and attachments against assets–even including your property–are certainly legal and carry serious potential as a way for creditors to get their money, many creditors use swing the mere threat of garnishment or attachment as a powerful weapon. This maneuver is known by a familiar name: intimidation. Ever seen a movie where loan shark casually stops by someone who borrowed money and either implies that there is a growing a possibility his legs will soon be broken or an outright menacing threat to the same effect? That’s the non-governmentally protected way of doing things. Businesses that have the full protection of the law do the same thing, except they replace breaking your legs with taking money out of your salary or claiming your property as their own. Unless the debt trying to be collected is the result of a secured loan, such threats to metaphorically break your legs by taking your stuff is mere hot air. Before debt collectors can act on threats to garnish your wages or attach your property, they must first file a case in court and get a judge to grant their request. If the situation does seriously begin to look as if it will get to that point you still need not necessarily fear. After all, you have a powerful weapon at your own disposal. Your threat of filing for bankruptcy will in most cases bring their threats of wage garnishment to a sudden end.
Reasonable Expectation of Phone Calls
Getting daily calls during the morning or afternoon from a debt collector may be annoying–okay, no question, they are annoying. But they are not illegal. On the other hand, if you are getting phone calls in the middle of the night or the same debt collection agency is leaving you ten messages a day, that absolute qualifies as harassment and is absolutely not to be withstood. You also have the right to make an official request that debt collectors stop trying to contact you at your place of employment.
Lying Liars and the Lies They Lie About
You want to stick it to that debt collector who fancies himself as some sort of bounty hunter on the trail of a desperate criminal? Well, if that debt collector has misrepresented his authority in any way–such as implying that he has the power to arrest you beyond the power that any citizen has to arrest anyone–then he just signed a warrant for his own arrest. Debt collectors are not bounty hunters nor are they legally endowed by any authoritative body any law enforcement powers. In fact, if a debt collector even dare to inform you that your situation with the company they represent has criminal implications, they have overstepped their boundary. Report any debt collection agent who represents himself as a law enforcement officer, an attorney or a government official of any kind. As for that last violation there, you don’t even have to wait for a debt collection to personally misrepresent himself as a government official. If you receive any paperwork from a debt collection agency that you feel is a clear attempt to scare you by fooling you into thinking it carries the authoritative weight of any government agency, you need to report that collection agency.
Reporting Debt Collector Harassment
Keep all evidence that you believe lends credence to your contention that you have been the victim of harassment or intimidation by debt collectors. Start by filing an official complaint with the debt collection agency itself; it may simply be a case of a rogue agent. If that’s not the case, then research any other complaints (official or not) made against the debt collector as it may bolster your case that what’s really going on here is systemic. If it is systemic, your ultimate victory may lie in putting a bad company out of business. After lodging a complaint with the company, it’s time to take things to the next level if you get no satisfaction. Contact the Federal Trade Commission, the Attorney General’s Office of your particular state and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If you still get no satisfaction, it’s time to go outside official channels and make the secret dirty business of intimidation among debt collectors as sexy a subject for news coverage as possible. Start with local reporters, then hit the internet and don’t stop until you get up to Anderson Cooper.