Phone call in Enschede (Telematica Instituut) No one likes to owe money.  Most people don’t plan on falling behind on their bills.  Then… to add insult to the financial injury, a debt collector with an attitude calls you.  Their job is plain and simple…to get you to pay.  Some collector’s though have the belief that their job is to get you to pay, regardless of what it takes.  You might owe the debt.  You probably feel guilty about what you haven’t been able to pay, because that’s how your parents raised you:  pay what you owe.  Even if you have guilty feelings, you do not have to be treated like a criminal.  You are still a consumer with consumer rights.  Know them and understand what those rights are. Debt collectors are prohibited by state and federal statutes from using tactics that harass, annoy or alarm you or your family. Those actions are defines as debt collection abuse .

Some examples include:

  • Repeatedly calling you on the phone.
  • Threatening physical violence towards you or your family.
  • Using profane language or cussing at your children when they happen to answer the phone.

Debt collectors are also prohibited from making false statements.  If they say they are an attorney, ask for their bar identification number so that you look them up on the State Bar’s web site and verify their license.  They cannot threaten to have you arrested or thrown in jail.  Even though the state and federal debt collection practices acts contain laundry lists of what a debt collector cannot do, keep in mind that this is a persistent industry that frequently and creatively invents new tactics to get people to pay.  When you are being targeted by a collector, you do not have to deal with them alone.  Options and resources are available.  If you think the collector is using abusive tactics, file a complaint with an enforcement or consumer agency.

In July, the Federal Trade Commission settled a lawsuit the Oxford Collection Agency, Inc. for engaging in prohibited debt collection practices.  One of the catalysts for the FTC’s lawsuit was the number of complaints filed.  Hundreds of complaints had been filed with the FTC, the local better business bureau, and the state attorney general offices.  Each individual complaint was like a drop in the bucket, but the number of complaints spoke volumes about the practices of the collector.  So file the complaint if you are being harassed with illegal collection practices.  You can make a difference for yourself and someone else.

The only drawback to the complaint process is that it may take some time for resolution.  Depending on your situation, you may want to file the complaint, but also tap into other resources.  A qualified bankruptcy attorney can shut down debt collectors for you.  If a collector continues to use abusive tactics even after the filing of a bankruptcy, the attorney can seek additional remedies for you through the bankruptcy court.  Bankruptcy courts do not take violations of their orders lightly.   Utilizing the assistance of a bankruptcy attorney and judge are more immediate remedies when you need help now.  The bottom line is that you should be able to resolve your financial obligations without being harassed or abused.  Use the resources available to you to report and end abusive tactics.