Protect Yourself from Abusive Debt Collectors

by Reader Contributors
Protect Yourself from Abusive Debt Collectors photo
Are you being harassed by abusive debt collectors? Know your rights. And take these steps to stop their abusive collections practices.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I’m getting calls from a collection agency. They say they’ve been hired by a store I owe money to. I’ve been gradually repaying them. The debt collectors are calling me at work and late into the night at home. I can ignore their calls on my cell phone, but I have to answer my phone at work. What can I do to protect myself from these abusive debt collectors?

Sean

What Steps Did You Take to Stop Abusive Debt Collectors?

We asked our readers this question. Many have struggled with and overcome financial problems and know first hand how stressful and embarrassing it can be when debt collectors are calling and harassing you at home and at work. Many of our readers who have “been there, done that” sent in some very helpful advice for protecting yourself against abusive debt collectors. Try these steps if a debt collector is harassing you.

Know Your Rights to Better Protect Yourself from Abusive Debt Collectors

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (enforced by the FTC) gives a debtor many rights. You can tell a collector you are not allowed to receive calls like theirs at work, and they are legally bound to stop calling. They may not call you before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM. You can send them a letter telling them not to call you anymore, and they are legally bound to stop.

Do an internet search for the FDCPA. There is a lot of information, including what you need to do if you decide to write a letter.
Carol

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Find Information Regarding Abusive Debt Collection Practices on the FTC Website

Check with the Federal Trade Commission. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act gives you the right to tell the collection agency to stop contacting you and the FTC website has all of the information you need to do just that. It also gives you information on how to report a collection agency that’s harassing you. Keep in mind that this does not discharge your debt. It just stops them from contacting you.
Debbie

Tell Abusive Debt Collectors to Cease and Desist

If you inform debt collectors that you are not allowed to get calls at work, they cannot call you. Sometimes you need to send this information to them in writing. Another option is to send the collector a “cease and desist” letter that informs them that you no longer want to be contacted about this debt. Since you are making payments already, this would probably be safe to do in your situation. You really need to be careful with cease and desist letters.

Remember that any communication sent to a debt collector needs to be sent certified mail, so they actually have to sign stating they received your communication. Payments sent to collection agencies are best sent via money order. It is not uncommon for collection agencies to obtain your banking information and take more than is owed or take the full balance at once, even though other payment arrangements have been established.

The Federal Trade Commission website has a lot of great suggestions on how to handle debt collectors. This is also the place you can file a complaint if you believe they have broken the law.

For additional help, all Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies address this issue. Find one that is reputable in your area by checking out NFCC.org.
Melissa in TN

Know Your Rights and Stand Your Ground

Print yourself a copy of the Fair Credit Collection Act from the government webpage. The FTC is charged with administering it, and you will see that they cannot call you before 8am or after 9pm. You will also see that as soon as you tell them they are no longer allowed to call you at work, they are required to stop. Put this in writing to them, sent via certified mail, return receipt requested. Tell them that if they violate your rights again, you will not only file a complaint with the FTC, but also seek restitution, which amounts to $1,500 per violation, as well as any potential damages arising out of your losing your job.

Debt collectors thrive on your being intimidated. Stand your ground. Once they know you know your rights, they will usually stop, because a debt collection firm just had to pay many thousands in fines because of doing so. If they do not, then pursue all your options.
Kamia

Read This Book

I recommend reading the book Back Off!: The Definitive Guide to Stopping Collection Agency Harassment. The book has helpful sample letters that you can type up and send.
Shannon

Speak to Your State Attorney General’s Office about Abusive Debt Collectors

Speak to your state attorney general’s office. They will take your complaint, ask for any additional information they need, and contact the debt collectors. If the collectors call again, report that, too. My neighbor did this, and the debt collectors backed down fast!
Anne

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Written Communication to Work Must Be Personal and Confidential

Yes, a collection agency can contact you at work by phone or mail unless the debt collector knows or has reason to know that your employer prohibits you from receiving such communications. Any written communication sent to you at work must me marked “Personal and Confidential” and a debt collector may not reveal the reason for the call to your supervisor or any co-workers. If he does, he has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and you might have the right to sue him.

If you don’t want to be contacted at work, write the debt collector a letter asking him not to call you at work or send you notice at work because your boss forbids such activity. I strongly recommend that you send the letter Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested so they cannot claim at a later date that they did not receive it.
Linda

Reviewed August 2020

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