If you have credit card debt, debt from a personal loan, or a home mortgage, and you are behind or have defaulted on your payments, you are probably receiving calls from debt collectors or collection agencies. With these kinds of debt, which constitute “consumer debts,” certain laws are in place that protect you from harassing communications or abusive conduct from debt collectors and debt collection agencies. In particular, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act governs these matters on the federal level, and similar acts have been passed under state laws as well.
Generally, a debt collector cannot contact consumers at any unusual time or place. Therefore, a debt collector may ordinarily call a consumer’s residence only between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Additionally, a debt collector cannot contact a consumer at his or her place of business if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the employer prohibits communications with debt collectors. Accordingly, if you are being contacted by a debt collector at your office, inform the debt collector that calls to your place of work are not welcome.
In addition, if you are receiving calls at your residence from a debt collector that are bothering or troubling you, you should notify the debt collector in writing by mail that you would like the debt collector to stop contacting you. If you provide this written communication to the debt collector, it should put a stop on the majority of the collector’s communications with you. For instance, under the law, the debt collector will only be able to contact you for extremely limited purposes, such as contacting you to inform you that the collector is terminating his debt collection efforts, or to notify you that the creditor or collection agency is seeking the services of an attorney to file suit. By law, a debt collector cannot engage in any activities that harass, oppress, or abuse you or anyone else in connection with the collection of a debt. Consequently, a debt collector cannot threaten you, or threaten to use violence or criminal means to harm you physically, your property or your reputation. Further, a debt collector cannot use obscene or profane language, and the debt collector is not allowed to cause your telephone to ring repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse or harass you or others. Finally, a debt collector is prohibited from using false, deceptive or misleading representations or means in order to collect the debt. For example, the debt collector cannot pretend to have an affiliation with law enforcement.
If you believe you are being unlawfully harassed by a debt collector’s telephone calls or activities, you should contact an attorney to discuss your rights and how to protect yourself. Ultimately, you may have available civil remedies against the debt collector or collection agency in a court of law.