What’s Considered Creditor Harassment And What Isn’t?
If you are someone who owes money to a debt collector, chances are you’ve received phone calls during the most inopportune moments throughout the day. It may seem that debt collectors will do anything they can to pressure you into paying your debts, even if they know you can’t afford to repay them. There are plenty of tactics they can use to try and get what they want, but there are also a lot of things they may try that are considered creditor harassment.
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act is a federal law that governs the way creditors can collect the debt they’re owed. If a creditor is found to be in violation of this law, the debtor has a right to report them and stop the harassment. What is considered creditor harassment, though? Creditors are well within their legal right to take certain measures in order to retrieve the money they are owed, but that doesn’t mean a debtor is completely helpless.
What creditors can do
There are quite a few things creditors can do to seek payment of debts.
- Sell your debt. In many cases, when an outstanding debt isn’t paid after a certain amount of time, a creditor can sell the debt to a debt collection agency, who will then seek repayment on their own behalf.
- Seek payment on an expired debt. Unsecured debts have a statute of limitations, then they are considered “expired.” In Florida, for instance, credit card debts have a statute of limitations of five years, in which a creditor can sue you to recover the debt. Even though the debt is considered to be expired after that point, the creditor may still seek repayment on the debt.
- Pressure debtors with phone calls. As long as a creditor stays within the confines of the law in Florida, they can place pressure on the debtor to pay back the debt. This includes seemingly endless phone calls, multiple letters in the mail, and threats of legal action.
If a creditor seeks repayment in a legal manner, there is little a debtor can do to get them to stop. The best option is to repay the debt, but the debtor can also request the creditor stop calling or ask to set up a payment plan in order to get rid of the debt owed. Asking for guidance from a debt attorney is also a great way to examine your options for dealing with these tactics used by a creditor.
What creditors cannot do
While creditors are able to use a few different tactics without breaking any laws, they do still have limitations of their own to keep in mind. When seeking repayment of a debt, a creditor cannot:
- Call debtors any time. Although phone calls are allowed, creditors can only call debtors between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. If they attempt to contact a debtor outside of this window, they risk being reported to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, and legal action can follow.
- Come to a debtor’s place of work. While a creditor can call a debtor at home, they cannot show up to their workplace in order to collect debt. They are, however, able to call a person at work, but cannot reveal their identity to any coworkers. Violation of this is considered publicizing a person’s debts, which is illegal.
- Arrest a debtor. A creditor cannot have a person arrested for not paying their debts. They can, however, sue them in a court of law and if the person does not appear they risk being held in contempt and placed in jail.
- Harass a debtor. Excessive phone calls, abusive language, and threats of violence are all considered illegal under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.
What to do if your rights are violated
If you feel that creditors are violating the regulations stated in the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, you can choose to proceed in two ways:
- File a complaint with the CFPB
- Sue the collection agency
If you choose to pursue legal action against a creditor or collection agency after they have violated any part of the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, you can seek legal counsel from the West Palm Beach creditor harassment attorneys at the office of Kelley, Fulton & Kaplan to handle your case and ensure you go about it properly.