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21 Jan, 2022

How to Report Harassing Phone Calls from Debt Collectors

Posted by: Consumer Law Partners

A person can report harassing phone calls from debt collectors by filing a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the state attorney general and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). He or she can also sue the debt collectors in a federal or state court, which could result in compensation.

Before reporting debt collectors, it is essential for people to check up on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) to verify that the incident violated the law. It is also important for people to include as much information as they can to support their claims when filing a complaint or lawsuit.

Below is more information on how to report harassing phone calls from debt collectors.

Finding Out if the Debt Collector Has Violated the FDCPA

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act has a set of guidelines that debt collectors are required to follow to avoid harassment. It imposes strict guidelines on when and how the agencies should contact debtors, such as:

  • Debt collectors should not contact people before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. They should also not contact a person at work if they know that the person is not allowed to receive communications there.
  • Debt collectors should stop contacting a person they know is represented by an attorney with regard to the debt. They should instead contact the attorney.
  • There should be no threats of violence, use of obscene language or repetitious calls in a bid to annoy or abuse the debtor.
  • Debt collectors cannot make false claims about themselves or the debt.

Documenting Debt Collector Harassment

People receiving harassing phone calls from debt collectors should keep records of their interactions with the collectors. Each time they receive a phone call, they should take detailed notes of what they talked about, the name of the representative and the time and date of the call. If the harassment happens over a period, it should be carefully documented.

Having a log that details the complaints with collection agencies will be useful when filing a complaint or lawsuit. People can present the log of the collectors’ harassment to consumer law lawyers who can bring a lawsuit against the agencies and seek compensation for their harassment.

Filing a Complaint With the CFPB

After a person does his or her research and finds the debt collection agency to have violated the FDCPA, the person can file a complaint with the CFPB — an independent government agency that protects consumers from corrupt financial practices. The CFPB enforces laws and regulations that protect the rights of consumers in the financial industry. Debt collection complaints accounted for 27% of the total complaints that the Bureau received from July 21, 2011, to March 31, 2018.

One can submit a complaint online or over the phone. Once the complaint is submitted, the agency can start investigating it. In certain cases, consumers may be entitled to a partial refund of the fees they paid to the debt collection company that has violated the law.

What About Filing Complaints With the Federal Trade Commission?

The FTC initially handled complaints about debt collection. However, it transferred consumer issues related to debt collection, banking, credit cards and credit reporting to the CFPB.

Although a person can initiate filing a complaint on the FTC website, the person will be referred to the CFPB complaints page if he or she is filing a debt collection complaint. Nevertheless, a person’s report will still be entered into FTC’s database, which is made available to law enforcement officers across the country.

Contacting the State’s Attorney General

A state may have its own debt collection laws along with the FDCPA. Some state laws apply to the original creditors. States also have Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices (UDAP) statutes that may cover debt collection. People can contact their state attorney general’s office to learn more about their state’s law.

A person can also report any problems with a debt collector to the state’s attorney general. State attorney general offices can file class-action lawsuits against debt collectors if they get a considerable number of complaints against the same agency.

The NAAG (National Association of Attorneys General) website lists all the attorneys general, so one can easily find the contact information of his or her state’s attorney general.

Filing a Complaint With the BBB

The BBB aims at promoting ethical, trustworthy practices among all businesses. The non-profit organization does not take legal action against debt collection agencies but helps mediate the disputes against the debt collectors. It reports consumer complaints about businesses and helps warn people about issues with specific debt collectors.

A person who has been harassed by a debt collector or collection agency can report the issue to the BBB. When a person files a complaint, it is sent to the company within two business days. The BBB will ask the company to respond within 14 days. The BBB will notify the person of the response of the business when it receives the response.

Contacting the Agency Directly

A person who has been harassed by a debt collector can contact the debt collection agency directly to make a complaint. The agency may provide an online contact form through which the person can make the complaint. The agency may work with the person to resolve the problem.

A person can also notify the agency of the debt collection harassment through a certified letter. He or she can also inform the original creditor of the issue by sending a copy of the letter. To avoid liability, the creditor may offer to settle the debt at a more agreeable rate or even cancel it.

People who have experienced one or more violations of the FDCPA can put an end to the harassing phone calls by either hiring a lawyer and referring all calls to that lawyer or submitting a letter to the debt collection agency asking it to stop contacting them. One should send the original letter by certified mail, keep a copy for his or her files and get a return receipt to document what the debt collector has received.

When the collector gets the certified letter, the agency is not allowed to contact the person. There are two exceptions. The agency can contact the person if it wants to let the person know that it will not be contacting him or her again. It can also contact the person to let the person know that it or the creditor will be taking a particular action against him or her, like filing a lawsuit.

Suing Debt Collectors for Harassment

The FDCPA gives people the right to sue debt collectors who have violated their rights. People have one year from the time the collectors violated the law to file a lawsuit.

Just as people can collect damages after suing telemarketers for harassment, they can also sue debt collectors and claim damages. If a person can prove actual damages like medical bills, lost wages and costs of switching phone numbers because of the debt collector’s actions, he or she can recover the damages.

Under the FDCPA, TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) and FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act), a person could also recover statutory damages of $500 per violation. For willful violations, a person may be awarded up to $1,500 for every violation. If the harassing phone calls were violations of a person’s do-not-call request, one could file a separate action and be entitled to $500 per violation.

When filing a lawsuit against debt collectors, it is essential to include as much evidence to support one’s claim as possible, such as:

  • Dates and times of calls
  • The collection agency’s name
  • Names of the people spoken with
  • The violation’s specific details

Consulting with an attorney to discuss one’s case helps the person learn the best legal route to take when suing for debt collection harassment.