What is creditor harassment and how can it be stopped?

This article looks at what debt collection agencies can and cannot do and how to end creditor harassment.

Being on the receiving end of a creditor's repeated and harassing phone calls is a frightening and demoralizing experience. However, as Money Mic reports, 77 million Americans currently have a debt in collection while one third of Americans have been contacted by a debt collector within the past 12 months. Dealing with debt collectors is something millions of Americans do everyday and, unfortunately, not all debt collectors play by the rules. Creditor harassment is a major problem, but there are ways to make it stop, including by considering bankruptcy options for those struggling with unsustainable levels of debt. Below is a look at what constitutes creditor harassment and consumers can put a stop to it.

What is prohibited?

As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) points out, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits creditors from harassing, oppressing, or abusing anybody they contact. Consumers who have been victims of creditor harassment can file a complaint with the CFPB, which could ultimately lead to a fine against the collector if those allegations are proven true.

For example, a debt collector cannot call outside of the hours between 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. unless the debtor gives them permission to do so. Additionally, while a debt collector can call a person's place of work, they cannot discuss that person's debt with anybody aside from the debtor's spouse or attorney. Debt collectors are also prohibited from making false threats, using profane language, or threatening to confiscate property. This also means that debt collectors cannot threaten to take a debtor to court unless they actually intend to do so.

What isn't prohibited?

Unfortunately, the law does not prohibit debt collectors from engaging in all acts that a consumer may consider invasive. For example, debt collectors are allowed to purchase lists that contain phone numbers from listing companies. Consumers who give their phone numbers to banks, grocery stores, retail stores, or marketing companies may find themselves on these lists. Additionally, debt collectors are permitted to call consumers whose numbers are listed publicly through social media.

Making the calls stop

Both the Federal Trade Commission and the CFPB encourage consumers who have been on the receiving end of alleged creditor harassment to file complaints with these two federal agencies. Complaints can be filed online through either agency's website.

Another effective way of making phone calls from creditors stop is by talking to a bankruptcy attorney. While bankruptcy is not an ideal solution for everyone, it can work for those who are struggling to stay afloat. Once a person begins bankruptcy proceedings, creditors must deal directly with that individual's attorney, meaning that the phone calls from debt collectors to the consumer must cease. An experienced bankruptcy attorney can show clients how bankruptcy may be a suitable option for them and how it may be the chance they need to get back on their feet.