If Debt Collector Harassment is Ruining Your Life, You Have Rights! FDCPA Lawyers Can Help Today!
Like something straight out of your nightmares, debt collectors only come slinking around when you’re already in the midst of a financial crisis. When you’re on the other end of debt collection harassment, you know firsthand that this type of abuse turns an already stressful financial situation into a full-blown traumatic experience. It’s the consumer economy equivalent to throwing gasoline on a fire.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the federal government’s legislative attempt to regulate the debt collection industry, which is rife with abuse, deception, and exploitation.
With seventy-five years of combined practice experience, the team of debt collection harassment lawyers at Consumer Attorneys has handled every scenario imaginable involving FDCPA cases and FDCPA violations. As debt collector harassment lawyers, we have helped hundreds of consumers just like you land back on their feet after the tumultuous financial and emotional experience of dealing with oppressive debt collector harassment.
I’ll explain everything you need to know to understand your rights under the FDCPA and how to enforce them, how to go about disputing debts and protecting yourself from harassing bill collector calls, how to hold unscrupulous debt collection agencies accountable through an FDCPA violation lawsuit, what type of compensation you’re entitled to, how a skilled and experienced lawyer can help, and how to restore your personal empowerment and peace of mind.
Keep reading to be fully informed, and then call today for a free consultation with a lawyer. With a nationwide practice, our lawyers are always right where you need us to be. And, as Fair Debt Collection Practices Act attorneys, helping you is why we’re here.
What is the FDCPA?
To understand the FDCPA, it helps to know a bit about the debt collection business.
What is debt collection, and how does it harm people?
Debt collection agencies, also called debt collectors and bill collectors, play a particularly unsavory role in the consumer economy. When a consumer accrues an unpaid debt, the company that holds the account can attempt to recover the money via one of two debt collection options:
- Contract with a debt collection agency to recover the full outstanding amount. In this option, the company agrees to pay the collection agency a percentage of the amount collected as a fee for doing their dirty work.
- Sell the debt to a debt buyer, who will attempt to recover the full outstanding amount. In this option, the debt buyer pays the company a percentage of the amount owed and becomes the owner of the right to pursue repayment of the full amount from the consumer.
From the consumer perspective, these two possibilities are similar in terms of how you experience the process of debt collection. For you, the end result of either approach is that you now have a third-party company in hot pursuit of the money. Colloquially, this is called “being sent to collections.”
Debt collection, in theory, is meant to prevent businesses from suffering substantial financial losses when consumers can’t or won’t pay their bills. Sounds fair enough in theory, right? Yes, but the difference between theory and reality is significant.
The practical result is a business model that seems to sit at the intersection of loan sharks and actual sharks. Unpaid debt is like blood in the water to these businesses, and when it’s feeding time, intimidation, harassment, abuse, fear, exploitation, and the lowest possible opportunistic impulses are the driving force behind how they engage with the unlucky consumers on the other end.
What makes this even worse is that most consumers who accrue unpaid debt are not scammers but people who hit hard financial times for various reasons. For instance, medical debt is one of the leading causes of crushing consumer debt in this country. And medical debt, of course, is outrageously outsized due to the compounded problem of insufficient, unaffordable health insurance, grossly inflated medical costs, and comparatively low wages. So, being subject to harassment, on top of being subject to arguably unjust debt, is a brutal blow.
Sometimes, It’s Not Even Your Debt, or the Debt Collection is a Scam
For some consumers caught up in debt collector threats and harassment, it either isn’t their actual debt at the root of the problem, or there was no real debt to begin with. It’s true! As consumer protection lawyers, we have witnessed the exploitation of consumers in all kinds of financial situations and scenarios involving misleading, false, and fully criminal activity around debt collection is no exception.
Most debt collection agencies target individuals with actual, confirmable debt. However, because the world of consumer debt overlaps with the consumer data industry, there are times when data errors and mistakes result in the wrong person being targeted with debt collection harassment. So, some people looking to stop harassment from bill collectors are also victims of data errors and mistaken identity.
In addition, as with any area of financial or data-related content, scammers are also out there looking to exploit consumers at every turn. One rouse used by some is a debt collector harassment scam in which criminals pose as debt collectors in an attempt to get payment information from unsuspecting and frightened consumers.
To stop harassing phone calls from fake debt collectors, you should still contact a consumer protection attorney, like those at Consumer Attorneys. However, when it comes to the crime of fake debt collector harassment for extortion or theft, you may also choose to pursue charges through the criminal justice system. Filing criminal complaints with local law enforcement and your state Attorney General’s office may form part of your overall plan of self-protection.
Whether or not your instincts, intuition, or analytical mind ring an alarm bell, it is never advisable to just provide payment information over the phone to a person who called YOU. Even if you know that you owe a debt to the company being referenced, you should still research, follow up, and confirm the accuracy and veracity of the debt collection information before providing any financial or other personally identifying information.
Credit Report Impact
Beyond the persistent harassment that characterizes debt collection, it can also detrimentally impact your creditworthiness. Once debt collection agencies (or the original company) report your outstanding balance to the credit bureaus, your credit score can take a substantial hit. This, in turn, can ruin all kinds of financial opportunities, such as applications for employment, loans, mortgages, auto financing, rentals, and other opportunities.
How does the FDCPA help?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), along with elements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), other federal legislation, and complementary state laws, seeks to prevent patterns of abuse, harassment, unfairness, and deception. It helps in several key ways. Among the FDCPA protections afforded to you are the following:
- By law, debt collectors cannot harass you! Though debt collection harassment lawyers can attest that this regulation is ignored much of the time, it is illegal for debt collectors to harass you. The law recognizes that owing a debt is not a legitimate reason to subject anyone to harassment.
However, to enforce this law, you’ll have to demonstrate a pattern of abuse and harassment.
- The Debt Collection Rule protects you specifically from harassment via phone calls. Debt collectors can only call you up to seven times in seven days. This includes leaving a voicemail. In addition, if a debt collector speaks to you directly at any point, they must wait seven additional days from that conversation before contacting you again.
For phone calls only, if the Debt Collection Rule is violated, it is automatically presumed to be harassment in violation of the FDCPA.
- Debt collectors can only call you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. and have to respect work boundaries and other inconveniences. Specifically, once you tell them you cannot take personal calls at work, they can no longer call you during work hours, or it constitutes harassment. Similarly, if you tell them a particular phone call is inconvenient for you (for instance, if you’re at a medical appointment), they have to end the call immediately, or it’s harassment.
- Debt collectors can contact you using social media, but only via private messaging. They are prohibited from posting anything about your debt, including that you have a debt, publicly.
- While debt collectors can contact you via text, email, and social media, you have the right to opt out of these contact methods, and they are required to provide you with a simple and easy process for doing so.
- Debt collectors cannot continue contacting you once a lawyer represents you. It is not enough to tell them you have a lawyer, though. You have to provide them with a name and contact information (address and phone number) for your lawyer. But once you’ve done that, all future engagement should be done exclusively through your lawyer.
- For the FDCPA, the “debt collectors” category is broadly interpreted to include debt collectors, debt buyers, and lawyers. This prevents companies from just having their lawyers do the harassing instead of collection agents. So don’t be intimidated by someone identifying as a lawyer for the collection agency. The same laws around consumer engagement still bind them.
As consumer protection lawyers, we recommend keeping detailed notes on everything. Proving patterns and violations is critical to stopping debt collector harassment and preparing for a lawsuit. To sue for harassment collection, we advise including the following in your notes:
- The name of the person you spoke with or the person who left a voicemail, sent a text, sent an email, directly messaged, etc.
- The date of the phone call, voicemail, text, email, message, etc.
- The time of day the communication was received.
- The content of the conversation or communication, including what you said (e.g., not to call you at work, that you have a debt collection harassment attorney, etc.)
We also note that the FDCPA does not apply to business debts. In addition, a debt collector under the FDCPA does not include a company collecting its own debts under its own name. So, if you owe a medical debt to a hospital and the hospital billing department is harassing you, you may still have legal protections, but these types of first-party collectors are not considered “debt collectors” under the FDCPA.
However, some states do impose liability on first-party collectors through state laws that regulate debt collection practices in conjunction with the FDCPA. If you’re dealing with this type of scenario, Contact Consumer Attorneys to learn more.
What Do Debt Collection Harassment Lawyers Do?
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act lawyers are called consumer protection attorneys (sometimes just called consumer law attorneys). These are attorneys who practice in the areas of the law that are most impacted by the unbalanced power dynamic between corporate interests and the average consumer. Debt collection practices fall under this category and within the purview of the laws we navigate daily.
An FDCPA attorney can stop harassment from bill collectors. Because debt collection practices are governed by state and federal law, attorneys are valuable tools in defending your right to live peaceably while you repay or dispute a debt. There are four key ways that a consumer protection attorney can help.
- As discussed above, once you agree to work with an attorney for debt collection harassment, you have to let the debt collector know that you are working with an attorney to stop cell phone collection calls and other forms of harassment.
Then, provide them with your lawyer’s contact information, and they must stop contacting you. They are legally required to communicate through your collection calls attorney going forward.
Your lawyer will also formalize their representation of you by sending a letter to direct all future communications about your debt to them. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but for most people in most scenarios, this will end debt collector threats and harassment.
- A debt collection harassment lawyer will provide legal advice and guidance about whether you should make payments toward the debt or whether you even have to. Some debts are time-barred, and making or agreeing to make payments may trigger a renewed obligation on your part that otherwise doesn’t actually exist!
- If you dispute the debt or any portion of the debt, there is a process for formalizing this counter-narrative, and a consumer protection lawyer can guide you through the dispute process while protecting your legal rights and your emotional well-being.
- Lawyers for debt collection harassment can file a lawsuit for relief and compensation if the harassment continues, if any of the presumptive harassment scenarios are triggered, or if any other relevant federal or state laws are violated.
Importantly, attorneys who handle collection calls have seen, heard, and handled it all before, so they know how to mount a strong case and lay the foundation for a successful lawsuit.
So, when you need to mount an FDCPA defense of your rights and work with a debt collector harassment attorney, the highly skilled team at Consumer Attorneys is ready to be your greatest asset in winning back your sanity and protecting your rights.
Common Debt Collection Violations
If you’re at the point of doing online research about how to get help, then you likely already know what form debt collection harassment violations can take. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a federal agency established to regulate the policies, procedures, and tactics of corporate interests and how they engage with consumers, identifies key hallmarks of debt collection harassment that violate FDCPA law, including:
- Frequent, persistent, repetitive communications of all kinds (phone calls, texts, emails, social media messages, etc.), particularly in a pattern that violates the Debt Collection Rule (see above), that are meant to “harass, oppress, or abuse” you.
- Anonymous debt collection phone calls. They must provide information about who they are and why they’re calling.
- Publishing public content identifying consumers with outstanding debts. They are prohibited from using websites, social media posts/comments, or any other forum to call out people by name or personally identifying information.
However, they can report the debt and your non-payment to the credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion), which can and does harm your credit profile.
- Engage with you using threats of any kind. They are prohibited from suggesting, implying, or stating that violence or other harm will come to you if you don’t pay or agree to pay money toward the outstanding debt.
- Engage with you in vulgar or offensive ways. Debt collectors are not allowed to use curses or other foul or offensive language in their communications with you.
When Do I Need an FDCPA Lawyer?
Ideally, you should contact an FDCPA lawyer as soon as you are contacted by a debt collection agency before agreeing to anything. Call an FDCPA lawyer before:
- confirming that you have a debt;
- explaining why you have the debt;
- explaining why you can’t pay it;
- agreeing to repay it;
- agreeing to any terms of repayment;
- making any payment or payment arrangements.
However, if you’ve already done any or all of the above, you can and should still call an FDCPA lawyer today. None of these things give the debt collector a right to harass you or legitimize their harassment. Debt collection practices center on a foundation of intimidation meant to bully, frighten, and intimidate people into doing what is in the debt collector's best interests, not your best interests. So, the sooner you talk to a lawyer, the better, but also, talking to a lawyer at any time is the very best way to do right by yourself throughout this experience.
Can I handle Debt Collector Harassment Without a Lawyer?
Yes, but we don’t recommend it. You are empowered to represent yourself through negotiations, disputes, and even trials if you want, but reading a brief summary of your rights under the law doesn’t compare to having the force of seventy-five years of combined practice experience on your side.
Debt collectors and the companies they represent have enormous power, and they know it. It’s why they frequently flout the law and opt to harass, abuse, and oppress consumers instead. They are well aware that many consumers lack access to the knowledge and resources that will guide them to work with an attorney to protect their rights.
Most consumers don’t know that the same regulations that give you legal rights to defend yourself against harassing debt collection practices also give you the right to no-cost legal representation for enforcing those rights.
Debt Dispute Companies
When you’re at your most vulnerable, struggling against debt, battling obnoxious and abusive debt collection practices, trying to determine if you should go it alone, and wondering where to look for help, debt dispute companies may seem like a viable option. For instance, some companies provide cursory dispute guidance and then charge fees for guiding you through the process of answering a complaint once the debt collector has filed a lawsuit against you.
However, working with a consumer protection lawyer to manage Fair Debt Collection Practices Act violations from the earliest opportunity offers the greatest legal protection of your rights and your mental and emotional well-being. And, best of all, the companies you sue pay for your lawyer’s legal services when you win.
Start from the best legal position possible by working with top-tier lawyers who deal with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
What You Need to Know Before Contacting an FDCPA Attorney
There isn’t much you need to know before contacting an FDCPA attorney besides the fact that you have a debt that was sent to collections. In fact, we recommend contacting one of the skilled and experienced lawyers on our team at Consumer Attorneys as soon as you learn that your account has been sent to collections. There are four main reasons why reaching out to a lawyer early is critical.
- Not all debts need to be repaid, and sometimes, agreeing to repayment terms unknowingly resets your obligation to pay.
- When it comes to debt collection practices, state laws can have a significant impact, so knowing how state and federal regulations intersect in your state is essential.
- Debt collection practices are notorious for being unsavory, abusive, manipulative, misleading, and borderline (or wholly) unethical. Having a lawyer on your side from the beginning is exceedingly helpful in preventing some of the worst experiences people have in these situations. In fact, once you’re working with a lawyer, debt collectors must direct their communications to your lawyer, not you.
- The law favors your right to protect yourself with legal representation by making the debt collection agencies pay your legal bills when you sue them for debt collection harassment and win. So, when a debt collector is sued for harassment, they can also expect to foot the bill.
How FDCPA Lawyers Sue Collectors
FDCPA violations attorneys sue debt collectors by knowing the relevant state and federal regulations, understanding the tricks and tactics that plague the debt collection industry, keeping exceedingly detailed notes about all communications, documentation, and engagement, and knowing if and when a lawsuit is necessary.
Compensation You Will Get After Suing a Collector
You can sue for compensation when you’ve been harmed by shady, unjust, and unethical debt collection practices under the FDCPA and other state and federal regulations.
- Compensation for actual damages. This is known as “compensatory” damages. It means that if you have sustained any kind of financial or emotional harm due to abusive debt collection tactics, you have the right to be made whole again.
- Compensation for punitive damages. These are meant to “punish” or incentivize the wrongdoer to make systemic improvements to prevent similar harm in the future.
- Legal fees paid for. When you fight back against debt collectors by filing a lawsuit, the debt collection agency must pay any legal fees and costs you incur to defend and protect yourself when you win.
FDCPA Lawsuit Attorney Fees
Under the FDCPA, you have the legal right to file a lawsuit against a debt collector for engaging with you through harassing, misleading, threatening, or abusive communications, whether via phone, text, email, social media, letter, or otherwise.
You have the right to pursue this lawsuit with a highly reputable lawyer without paying any out-of-pocket money. The idea of the regulation is to protect consumers who are being harassed by debt collectors. To do this, the FDCPA recognizes that it would be unfair to make consumers pay for the costs of enforcing their right not to be harassed.
So, the FDCPA makes the debt collectors pay for your legal expenses. Accordingly, the companies you sue for harassment pay all of your lawyer’s costs and fees if you win so that you don’t have to.
At Consumer Attorneys, we also know that you won’t know if you need a lawyer until you talk to a lawyer, so our consultations are free. When you’re ready to contact attorneys for debt collection harassment, Consumer Attorneys is here to listen and help. If we take your debt collection harassment case and file a lawsuit on your behalf, you pay nothing out of pocket.
Trust Our Debt Collector Harassment Lawyers
At Consumer Attorneys, we are a national consumer protection law firm with a team of highly skilled and experienced lawyers who are active litigators and passionate advocates on behalf of consumers. With over seventy-five years of combined experience, our lawyers are dedicated to protecting and defending consumer rights in an economy that strongly favors corporate interests over hardworking people.
We pride ourselves on being educated, ethical, and empathetic lawyers who care about the problems that plague the consumer debt collection business because we genuinely care about our clients.
When you suffer harassment or abuse, trust our lawyers to get you back to good. It’s why we’re here.
Contact Us When You’re Harassed by Collectors
With a free consultation, there is nothing to lose in discussing your debt collection harassment situation with one of the consumer protection lawyers at Consumer Attorneys today!
If you’re searching for FDCPA attorneys “near me,” we can help. With a nationwide practice, we’re always right where you need us to be.