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  • Writer's pictureMarshall Reissman

You Don't Have To Take It!

There is no excuse for collection abuse.

Have you, or has anyone near and dear to you, ever been late on a bill? Have you received telephone calls from debt collection agents? Have these collection agents been courteous and respectful, or have any of them been rude, disrespectful, intimidating, insulting, condescending, or dishonest?

People who are in debt often feel humiliated and intimidated. Debt collectors may take advantage of this by suggesting that someone may get arrested, their wages are going to be garnished, they are going to be thrown out on the street, they are going to lose their job, or other horrible consequences due to being late on a bill. It doesn’t stop there. Sometimes debt collectors will contact third parties such as family, neighbors, spouses, or employers. There are even collectors who will tell children that they'd better tell their parents to make a payment or they will be thrown out of their house.

Although it is hard to believe sometimes, there are laws and standards governing the behavior of debt collectors. When those laws are violated, there are remedies in state and federal court to hold debt collectors liable for monetary damages.

For instance, collectors may only contact a third party if they are seeking information on the whereabouts of a debtor, and then they must identify themselves, their motive, and, if asked, their employer. Collectors must be respectful and may only make a single contact to a party to determine the location of a debtor, unless the information is later found to be missing or erroneous. Most significantly, if a collector is informed that the debtor has retained an attorney, communication must be solely with the attorney.

Among other legal restrictions, it is illegal for collectors to do any of the following:

  • Attempt to collect more debt than what is actually owed;

  • Call you at work;

  • Call you early in the morning or late at night;

  • Call your friends, neighbors, and/or coworkers;

  • Harass you, intimidate you, lie to you, or use obscene language;

  • Make anonymous calls or use false names;

  • Threaten you with lawsuits, arrest, or violence;

  • Threaten to garnish wages;

  • Use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to harass you.

Debt collectors who violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act's provisions may be liable to a debtor or third parties for actual damages sustained as a result, as well as additional damages, not exceeding $1,000.00, if a claim is filed by the debtor. Also, the debt collector’s employer may be liable for all attorney’s fees and court costs as well.

It is important to note that these protections apply to consumer debts, not business debts. These are debts of a personal, family, or household nature, including medical bills, mortgages, credit card accounts, car payments, and retail financing. When it comes to business collections, (almost) anything goes.

The bottom line is that just because someone owes money, it does not mean that they are a second-class citizen or may be abused by creditors. It is most important to tell the collectors not to call anymore, consult with an attorney, and keep a record (even if it is just notes in a spiral notebook) tracking the frequency and content of collector calls. Trying to get out of debt is difficult enough; being subjected to duress and verbal abuse should not be tolerated.

If you are in need of a bankruptcy attorney, call us today for a free consultation!


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