How to Deal With Debt Collectors: Stop the Harassment!

26 May How to Deal With Debt Collectors: Stop the Harassment!

Debt collectors can make your life miserable. Repeated, angry phone calls at home. Inappropriate calls at work. Nasty letters. It’s enough to make you want to disconnect your phone and tell the mailman you’ve gone on an extended trip.

You don’t have to. There are federal and state laws that protect you from debt collection tactics, and can stop the calls and letters.

A Federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the biggest help. First enacted in 1977, this law provides significant protection to people who are being harassed by collection agents.

Among other provisions, the FDCPA prohibits improper collection activity. This includes:

  • Contacting you by telephone earlier than 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m., your time;
  • Contacting you in any way (other than a lawsuit) after you send written notice that you don’t want them to contact you further (see my discussion of this at How to Deal With Debt Collectors: Stop the Calls!);
  • Contacting you at your employment after you tell them that this is not acceptable (see my discussion of this at How to Deal With Debt Collectors: Stop the Calls!);
  • Misrepresenting the debt or using deception to collect the debt;
  • Threatening you with arrest or legal action that they don’t intend to do or they cannot do (see my discussion of attempts to collect debts barred by the statute of limitations at How to Deal With Debt Collectors: The Statute of Limitations);
  • Using abusive or profane language to try to collect the debt;
  • Telling anyone other than you, your spouse or your attorney that they are trying to collect a debt;
  • Filing lawsuits in places other than where the you live or signed the contract.

If a collection agent does any of these things, you should contact a consumer protection lawyer immediately. The FDCPA provides that a collection agent who violates the law is liable for statutory damages of up to $1,000 per incident, actual damages (including damages for your embarrassment and distress at what they do) and your attorney’s fees.

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Brett Weiss, a senior partner at Chung & Press, LLC, represents people and businesses in all phases of bankruptcy. He has experience in complex individual Chapter 7, Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases, and in Chapter 11 small business restructuring and reorganization. Mr. Weiss lectures nationally on bankruptcy issues. He has testified before the Federal Bankruptcy Rules Committee, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and has twice testified before Congress on bankruptcy and credit issues. Brett Weiss is the co-author of Chapter 11 for Individual Debtors, and has written Not Dead Yet: Bankruptcy After BAPCPA, for the Maryland Bar Journal, as well as hundreds of blogs for the Bankruptcy Law Network. With his law partner, he recorded a 13-hour basic bankruptcy training series, and leads intensive three-day Chapter 11 training boot camps. Mr. Weiss has received international media attention in connection with his work. He was interviewed by Barbara Walters on The View, has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC News with Peter Jennings, the Montel Williams Show, National Public Radio, AARP-TV, the BBC World Service, German state television, and numerous local radio and television programs, and been quoted in Money magazine, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun, among others. Brett Weiss is the Maryland State Chair for the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, a founding member of the Bankruptcy Law Network, on the board of the Maryland State Bar Consumer Bankruptcy Council, and a member of the American Bankruptcy Institute, the Bankruptcy Bar Association of Maryland, and the Civil Justice Network. He has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” every year since 2007 for Maryland and the District of Columbia, and in 2011 received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys for his work on behalf of consumers across the country. Mr. Weiss is admitted to practice before Maryland and District of Columbia federal and state courts, the United States Courts of Appeals for the DC, Fourth and Eighth Circuits, The United States Tax Court, and the Supreme Court of the United States, and has been practicing law since 1983.
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