Stop Bill Collection Harassment

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Although most debtors are honest, hard working and responsible consumers who have every intention of honoring their debts, it can be easy to fall behind after experiencing a financial emergency, such as a job loss, a divorce or separation, or a medical emergency or illness. During those hard times, these people may not be able to make their payments, and after they fall behind, they may receive calls from bill collectors or companies to whom they owe money.

Every now and then these efforts cross the line, passing from aggressive efforts at collection into harassment. In attempts to recover the debt, collectors may call a debtor several times a day, call at unusual or intrusive hours, call friends or family members, make threats, use abusive language, call the debtor at work, or even call the debtor's employer and reveal the status of the debtor's case.

The above behaviors are not only unethical, they are illegal. The consumer has rights that can be invoked in such situations. According to the law, if the collector's speech or tone is disrespectful or undignified, or if their charges are unfair or untrue, they are in violation of anti-harassment laws and action can be taken against them.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a U.S. statute, intended to monitor and terminate abusive practices within the collection of consumer debts, to promote honest debt collection and to provide consumers with a channel for disputing and gathering validity of debt information in order to assure its accuracy. The act creates guidelines for which debt collectors can conduct business, describes the rights of consumers and prescribes consequences and penalties for violation of the act.

It's important first to verify that the debt is real. People often agree to electronic check or credit card payments just to stop the harassment, but aggressive tactics often mask a fraudulent or mistaken claim. Some collection agencies knowingly violate the laws regarding harassment in the hopes that the consumer is not aware of their rights and will submit under the pressure. The consumer should ask to see written evidence of the debt, including the amount, interest, and terms of repayment before agreeing to any payment over the phone. If the debt is not legitimate, the caller should be reported to the authorities.

If the debt is real, and the consumer actually does owe the debt, this does not mean that harassing techniques are justified. The consumer's next step is to write a 'do not call' letter to the company and the collection agency. In this letter, the debtor should include their name and account information, and specific information about when, where, and how they may be contacted. It is a good idea to send this letter by certified mail so that there is proof that the company or collection agency received it.

If this step does not stop the calls, the debtor should record the date, time and content of each phone call. This will prove that harassment is taking place, should the debtor decide to file a complaint against the agent, agency, or company. Debtors do have an obligation to pay their debts, but that should never mean that they are treated badly by collectors or anyone else.

Be aware of your rights as a consumer! The following are some violations of the FDCPA:

Debt collectors whom do not identify themselves
Disclosing to parties other than the consumer that debts are owed
Contacting a person after the debtor is knowingly represented by an attorney
Phone calls which occur before 8:00 am and after 9:00 pm
Contacting the consumer after there has been written communication to cease contact.


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