What is harassment by a debt collector?

Answer: Harassment by a debt collector can come in different forms but examples include repetitious phone calls intended to annoy or abuse, obscene language, and threats of violence.

No harassment: The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) says debt collectors can't harass, oppress, or abuse you or anyone else 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

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.

No misrepresentations: The FDCPA also says debt collectors can't use false, deceptive, or misleading practices.  This includes misrepresentations about the debt, including:

  • The amount owed
  • That the person is an attorney if they are not
  • False threats to have you arrested
  • Threats to do things that cannot legally be done
  • Threats to do things that the debt collector has no intention of doing

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.

The CFPB has prepared sample letters that you can use to respond to a debt collector who is trying to collect a debt along with tips on how to use them. The sample letters may help you to get information, set limits or stop any further communication, or exercise some of your rights.

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