Debt collection agencies are often relentless in pursuit of consumers. Collectors will call consumers at home, at work, on cell phones and send numerous letters filled with strong language regarding the disposition of the debt. In some cases, debt collection agencies will use fear mongering and threats in an attempt to force a consumer to pay. Many consumers suffering the blight of debt collectors feel helpless and depressed in the wake of their harassment. The good news is that consumers have recourse to stop debt collector harassment in its tracks.
Definition of harassment
There is a fine line between a debt collector doing his job and consumer harassment under the Fair Debt Collection and Practices Act (FDCPA), as cited by the Commission (FTC). Collectors are allowed to call consumers, send letters demanding payment and even file lawsuits for bad debt. However, debt collectors are not allowed to use foul or violent language, publish a list of people who have not paid them, threaten consumers with violence or harm, use the phone to annoy someone, or tell anyone else they speak to on the phone about the debt. Doing any one of these things allows a consumer to file a lawsuit against the collection agency, and report the company to the FTC for direct violation of FDCPA. Debt collection agencies found to be practicing unlawfully face hefty fines and penalties, including loss of their license to collect debt.
Validation of Debt
If you received a collection notice and you believe the debt is not yours, you have the right to send the collection agency a letter requesting validation of the debt. In this letter, state why you believe the debt is fraudulent, emphasizing that you will not pay a debt that does not belong to you. In some cases, this is enough for the collection agency to drop all collection activities altogether. In others, the agency will reply with a copy of a bill, in which case you need to file a cease and desist letter with them, while battling it out between the collection agency and reporting the fraudulent debt to the FTC.
Cease and Desist
Regardless of whether or not a debt is valid, you have the right to deny the debt collector the ability to call you. In order to get the collector to stop calling, send him a cease and desist letter, stating that you will not speak to him on the phone, and that you are unable to take personal calls at work. Send this correspondence via certified mail, to prove that the creditor received it. After the agency signs for the letter, if they continue to call you, report them to the FTC.
You can successfully stop debt collection harassment when wielding the tools provided for consumer protection on the FTC website. The FTC offers consumers online forms for nearly every circumstance; filling these out, opens up a case file for you with the FTC for investigation and consumer assistance. However, it is important to remember that the FTC fields millions of consumer complaints per year, and might not be able to respond to your request immediately. In the event that a debt collector is in clear violation of the FDCPA, the best recourse is to seek legal help from a consumer attorney and file a lawsuit forcing the debt collector to own up to his harassment and be penalized to the fullest extent of the law. While it is possible to stop debt collector harassment on your own, involving legal counsel is undoubtedly the most effective method for extreme cases of harassment by a debt collector.