When you know you owe money on an unpaid debt, every piece of mail or phone call can make your blood pressure rise. Collections companies use over-the-top strategies, hoping that you will get so sick of being harassed by debt collectors you’ll pay just to make the phone calls stop. But you can fight back. Find out what to do to turn the tables when the debt collector calls.
What Debt Collection Harassment Looks Like
Debt collection companies have many tools in their toolbox to get debtors to settle their accounts. But many of those tools are illegal. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) makes it illegal for debt collectors to:
- Call at odd hours
- Call you repeatedly with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass you
- Use foul language
- Threaten harm or violence
- Publish lists of people who refuse to pay their debts (other than credit reporting information)
- Call you without telling you who they are
- Lie about the amount owed
- Pretend to be a state or government employee
- Claim to be a lawyer or law enforcement officer if they are not
- Threaten to call the police or have you arrested
- Threaten illegal acts
But even though the laws are on the books, consumers are still harassed by debt collectors every day. That’s why you need to know how to fight back.
Strategies to Fight Back Against Debt Collectors
If you are being harassed by debt collectors, it is time to go on offense. Be smart about the calls, letters, and emails you receive to build a case of debt collector harassment. Here are some strategies you can use:
Stay Calm and Listen
When being harassed by debt collectors it can be hard to keep your cool. But remember, you are looking to build a case against them, now. If you get mad at the caller, it will be hard to remember the details about what was said and by whom. Losing your temper, swearing, or raising your voice also allows the debt collector to claim their abusive tactics were just responding to your own anger. Remember that most collection calls are recorded. So stay calm, and listen carefully to what the caller says. You may be able to use it later.
Ask for Verification of the Debt
Often debt collectors try to collect more than is owed. Ask the debt collector to send you a verification of the debt in writing. This must include:
- The amount of the debt
- The name of the creditor to whom the money is owed
- That you have 30 days to dispute the validity of the debt
- That you have the right to request the name and contact information of the original creditor within 30 days
Take a close look at the verification and then send a written notice that you dispute the debt. A formal dispute stops the collections efforts (except for a collections lawsuit) while the dispute is being resolved.
Keep Copies of Letters and Emails
Start a folder where you store copies of every email, letter, or bill you get related to the debt, including the verification of the debt. Keep the envelope and note the day you received traditional mail.
Create a Call Log
Many of the FDCPA violation fines and penalties are based on the number of calls received. Create a call log and to track these calls. Your call log should include:
- The day and time of the call
- The number called (work, home, cell)
- The name of the debt collection agency
- The phone number that called you
- The name of the agent you spoke to
- What was discussed
- Whether there was an offer of installment payments
- Whether you disputed the debt
- Whether you asked them not to call again
- What action the debt collector said would happen if you did not pay (garnishment, damaged credit, call the police, go to jail, etc.)
- Any physical or emotional harm suffered because of the call (anxiety attack, loss of sleep, etc.)
By going on offense and using these tools, you and your collections harassment attorney can build a case against the collections company and stop being harassed by debt collectors.