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What is harassment by a debt collector?

Harassment by a debt collector can come in different forms, including repetitious and excessive communications through one or multiple channels intended to annoy or abuse you.

Harassment by debt collectors

Debt collectors violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) when they harass, oppress, or abuse you.

It’s harassment when debt collectors:

  • Place repetitious phone calls or use electronic communications – such as text, email, and social media messages – intended to harass, oppress, or abuse you or any person
  • Use obscene or profane language
  • Threaten violence or harm
  • Publish lists of people who refuse to pay their debts (this does not include reporting information to a credit reporting company)
  • Call you without telling you their name

Learn when and how often a debt collector can contact you

What are false, deceptive, or misleading practices by debt collectors

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 debt collector 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

How do I sue a debt collector

If you think a debt collector has violated the FDCPA, you can sue them for damages. If you prove a violation occurred, you may be awarded $1,000 in damages, plus additional compensation for any actual harm they caused. If you win, the collector may also be responsible for paying your lawyer fees and costs. There are lawyers that specialize in this type of lawsuit, but you can also go to court without a lawyer.

Be aware that a lawsuit against a debt collector for FDCPA violations must be filed within one year of the offense, so do not delay. If you file a lawsuit for a violation of state collection law, some state laws may allow more time. Learn how to find a lawyer that specializes in these cases.

Keeping record of your contact with a debt collector

If you’re being contacted by a debt collector, it’s important to keep a record of any letters, documents, or communications they send to you. Write down dates and times of conversations, along with notes about what you discussed. These records can help you if you’re disputing the debt, meeting with a lawyer, or going to court.

Also, be careful what you say to a debt collector because they will keep records as well. They can track any information you provide, including personal information or if you apologize or admit to owing the debt. Those statements could be used against you.

We have sample letters to help you 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 on or stop any further communication, or exercise some of your rights.

If you believe a debt collector is harassing you, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB. You can also contact your state's attorney general .

Learn more about debt collection.