Everyone has debt. Whether you owe money for medical bills, student loans, or credit cards, debt it is normal. What isn’t normal, however, is debt collector harassment. While their calls sometimes are a minor annoyance (because no one likes getting them), other times you may fear for your safety.
In this case, these calls can be considered debt collection harassment. According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors may not do the following:
- Threaten by using violence or other crime to harm the person, their reputation, or property
- Use obscene or profane language
- Creating a public list of consumers who refuse to pay debts
- Intentionally annoying, harassing, or abusing the person at the called number
- Call you at all times of the day or night. They are only allowed to reach you after 8 AM and before 9 PM (unless you have specified otherwise).
Keep a Debt Collection Journal
It’s a good habit to keep track of your debt collection letters in a file. It is also good practice to keep track of your phone calls with debt collection agencies in case a lawsuit is filed or if you are told conflicting information. In this journal, you can keep track of several things:
- The method of communication: phone call, voicemail, letter
- The date of the call
- The number that reached you
- The agency’s name
- The person’s name you are speaking with
- The amount owed
- The time spent on the phone
Protecting Yourself from Scammers
The Federal Trade Commission reported over 400,000 consumer complaints on debt collection scams in 2016. This complaint was ranked second out of the top 30 complaints, right behind general debt collection.
It can be difficult to determine actual debt collectors from scammers, so we’ve curated some tips that can help you to determine if the agency or person calling you is legitimate:
- If they cannot tell you their name or their company’s name, address, and phone number
- If they demand you to make a payment “today”
- If they tell you to send the money through Western Union or put the money on a prepaid card and tell you to tell them the numbers on the back
- Do a search for the collection agency and its phone number/address
- If they claim you will be arrested or jailed
- They refuse to send you a validation notice about the debt by mail
- If they are calling about a debt you do not owe
If you are being harassed by a debt collection agency or believe you are being scammed, there are several ways you can relieve yourself of this worry and anxiety:
- Consider bankruptcy if you cannot afford to pay off the debt.
- Send a letter to the agency to stop receiving calls.
- Contact an attorney if the calls persist and you believe you are being scammed.
If you believe you are being scammed, your safest option would be to hang up immediately when you realize the caller is a scammer. You may also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. If you are still unsure you are being scammed, you may also want to contact an experienced attorney who has worked with debt collection scam victims in the past.
Remember: you have rights! Take a look at the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and keep the regulations in mind whenever you are contacted about a debt.