Debt Collector Harassment Laws
Creditor and debt collection laws (federal and state) are designed to stop the abuse and harassment from collection agents and employees of creditors trying to collect debts. This section of the FDCPA outlines debt collector harassment laws and illegal tactics such as threats, obscene, profane, or abusive language and telephone calls designed to scare you into paying a debt right away!
If you are a victim of unfair or illegal debt collection tactics, the debt collector may just be liable to you for statutory damages of to $1,000, plus any actual damages suffered, plus attorney fees!
- What is harassment and abuse – 1692D
- Threat of violence is illegal – 1692D(1)
- Obscene, profane, or abusive language prohibited – 1692D(2)
- Publication of a list of debtors prohibited 1692D(4)
- Repeatedly calling you by telephone is harassment – 1692D(5)
- Calling without meaningful disclosure or legal purpose- 1692D(6)
1. Section 1692D prohibits a debt collector from any conduct that would “harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt.” It provides six examples of harassment or abuse, section 1692D(1) – 1692D(6) below.
1. Prohibited actions are not limited to the six subsections listed below as [53 Fed. Reg. 50105] examples of activities that violate this provision.
2. Unnecessary calls to third parties. A debt collector may not leave telephone messages with neighbors when the debt collector knows the consumer’s name and telephone number and could have reached him directly.
3. Multiple contacts with consumer. A debt collector may not engage in repeated personal contacts with a consumer with such frequency as to harass him. Subsection (5) deals specifically with harassment by multiple phone calls.
4. Abusive conduct. A debt collector may not pose a lengthy series of questions or comments to the consumer without giving the consumer a chance to reply. Subsection (2) deals specifically with harassment involving obscene, profane, or abusive language.
1. Implied threat. A debt collector may violate this section by an implied threat of violence. For example, a debt collector may not pressure a consumer with statements such as “We’re not playing around here–we can play tough” or “We’re going to send somebody to collect for us one way or the other.”
Abusive language includes religious slurs, profanity, obscenity, calling the consumer a liar or a deadbeat, and the use of racial or sexual epithets.
Prohibits the “publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts,” except to report the items to a “consumer reporting agency,” as defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act or to a party otherwise authorized to receive it under that Act.
1. Shaming prohibited. These provisions are designed to prohibit debt collectors from “shaming” a customer into payment, by publicizing the debt.
2. Exchange of lists. Debt collectors may not exchange lists of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay their debts.
3. Information to creditor subscribers. A debt collector may NOT distribute a list of alleged debtors to its creditor subscribers.
4. Coded lists. A debt collector that publishes a list of consumers who have had bad debts, coded to avoid generally disclosing the consumer’s identity (e.g., showing only the drivers license number and first three letters of each consumer’s name) does not violate this provision, because such publication is permitted under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
5. List for use by investigator. A debtor collector does not violate these provisions by providing a list of consumers against whom judgments have been entered to a private investigator in order to locate such individuals, because section 805(b) specifically permits contacts “reasonably necessary to effectuate a post-judgment judicial remedy.”
6. Public notice required by law. A debt collector does not violate these provisions by providing public notices that are required by law as a prerequisite to enforcement of a security interest in connection with a debt.
1. Multiple phone calls. “Continuously” means making a series of telephone calls, one right after the other. “Repeatedly” means calling with excessive frequency under the circumstances.
1. Aliases. A debt collector employee’s use of an alias that permits identification of the debt collector (i.e., where he uses the alias consistently, and his true identity can be ascertained by the employer) constitutes a “meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.”
2. Identification of caller. An individual debt collector must disclose his employer’s identity, when discussing the debt on the telephone with consumers or third parties permitted by section 805(b).
3. Relation to other sections. A debt collector who uses a false business name in a phone call to conceal his identity violates section 807(14), as well as this section.