Creditor harassment can occur when bill collectors attempt to collect debts in an unlawful manner. There are certain legal procedures that these collection agents must follow when acting on behalf of creditors, and overstepping their boundaries is usually considered harassment. Common examples can include nuisance phone calls, threatening letters, or other forms of unwanted communication. Some debtors are able to pursue legal action against creditors for illegal debt collection practices. To effectively deal with creditor harassment, a person should educate himself about his legal rights and consider consulting a lawyer for advice.
Creditors and their agents have the right to attempt debt collection, but they can do so only according to certain rules. Abuse of that right can constitute harassment. For example, bill collectors often call people’s homes and places of employment when trying to collect debts. They might use obscenities during the conversation, or they might threaten the debtor with arrest, property damage, or some other form of personal harm. In addition to making harassing statements in a collection letter, a bill collector might include humiliating information on the mailing envelope, such as using the word collections in the return address.
Several countries have laws in place to protect debtors’ rights. In the United States, a federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act grants certain legal remedies to victims of creditor harassment. Most phone calls and letters are considered harassing unless they contain an explicit statement about their purpose being debt collection on behalf of a particular creditor.
Creditor harassment also includes making false statements, such as a bill collector threatening to sue when he does not actually intend to do so. Making threatening or inflammatory statements, such as threatening to contact the debtor’s employer, is not permitted either. In general, creditors have no legal right to inform a third party of your debt. Their communications, including mailing envelopes, are not supposed to humiliate or intimidate debtors.
Many U.S. states also have state creditor harassment laws. One option for dealing with harassment is consulting a lawyer for advice. A lawyer might recommend sending a letter to the creditor or collection agent, asking them to cease all contact with the debtor. In some cases, a debtor may be eligible to sue the creditor for damages. In states where it is legal to record a phone call from a bill collector without his or her knowledge, debtors can obtain proof of harassment and file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Another option is to settle the debt with the creditor. In most cases, victims are usually advised to document all phone calls and save all written communications.