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Debt collection

What constitutes harassment by a debt collector?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) says debt collectors may not harass, oppress, or abuse you or any other people they contact. Some examples of harassment are: 

  • Repetitious phone calls that are intended to annoy, abuse, or harass you or any person answering the phone
  • Obscene or profane language
  • Threats of violence or harm
  • Publishing lists of people who refuse to pay their debts (this does not include reporting information to a credit reporting company)
  • Calling you without telling you who they are

If you believe a debt collector is harassing you, contact the CFPB, the FTC, or your state's attorney general. You can also sue the debt collector for violations of the FDCPA.  If you sue under the FDCPA and win, the debt collector must generally pay your attorney’s fees and may also have to pay you damages.

The FDCPA also says debt collectors cannot use false, deceptive, or misleading practices.  This includes misrepresentations about the debt, including the amount owed, that the person is an attorney, threats to have you arrested, threats to do things that cannot legally be done, or threats to do things that the debt collector has no intention of doing. Debt collectors also are not allowed to use certain practices that are considered unfair.

TIP: Keep good records of your communications with a debt collector.

It is a good idea to keep a file of all letters or documents a debt collector sends you and copies of anything you send to a debt collector. Also, write down dates and times of conversations along with notes about what you discussed. These records can help you if you have a dispute with a debt collector, meet with a lawyer, or go to court.

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