Are you getting inundated with calls from debt collectors? Or maybe they’ve given up on trying to reach you by phone and now they’re bothering your family to find you? If this sounds like you, then you’ll be happy to know that there are ways that you can stop debt collector harassment here in Phoenix and throughout the Valley.
To learn how to stop debt collector harassment, we’ll first look at what laws there are against debt collector harassment. It could be that your harassment is illegal and therefore you can act against it quickly. From there, we’ll see what common ways debt collectors violate anti-harassment laws. Finally, we’ll look at the options available should your debt collector’s harassment be legal.
Are There Laws Against Debt Collection Harassment?
While it is acceptable for a debt collector to try to get payments out of you, it is important that they conduct themselves in a legal manner. In this case, that means that there are two important pieces of legislation for debt collectors to be familiar with.
The first is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Approved in 1977, this act sets forth a lot of valuable information about how debt collectors can conduct themselves when seeking payment. Unfair practices and misleading information aren’t just bad business, they’re illegal. This piece of legislation is managed by the Federal Trade Commission.
Along with the federal act, there is also a state-wide act: The Arizona Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. You can find a lot about the fines and penalties for violating proper debt collection practices in this Act.
Debt collectors here in Phoenix need to be familiar with both of these, but many aren’t. In fact, it seems that the collection industry in general seems to attract a lot of people with somewhat loose habits in conforming to the law. Consult an attorney to see if your debt collector’s practices break the law.
What Are the Common Debt Collector Violations?
There are a number of ways in which your debt collector could be violating the law. These are the most common ways that debt collectors break the law, but there are also other ways in which violations can occur:
- Calling you non-stop; calling on consecutive days; calling multiple times a day
- Contacting your friends, family, employers, or any other third party
- Using an automated dialer
- Attempting to call but never leaving a message
- Threatening you with physical danger
- Threatening you with the use of law enforcement
- Adding late fees onto your debt
- Increasing the interest rate of your debt
- Any attempt to get more money out of you than the debt you owed
- Refusing to stop contacting you after receiving written and explicitly stated notice that the debt is being refuted
- Failing to validate the debt
- Failing to provide written notice of the debt
- Lying about the amount of debt you owe
- Threatening to sell the obligation of the debtor to another person or a firm
- Sending letters that imitate judicial forms, government forms, or lawyer forms
- Lying about being a lawyer or having a legal department
- Falsely stating that late payments will accrue fees
- Giving the impression that the State of Arizona, government, or any state agency, has endorsed their actions
You might be surprised to learn that some of the tactics that debt collectors have used on you were in fact illegal. When it comes to debt collection, if something seems weird then it probably is. There are a lot of laws about what is acceptable, so you never have to fall for an illegal debt collection trick again.
What Can Be Done to Stop Debt Collector Harassment?
If a debt collector has been using abusive practices against you, there are legal steps that you can take. By doing so, you can free yourself from these kinds of harmful practices, and there’s a good chance the debt collector won’t behave in that manner ever again.
Of course, many debt collectors are annoying but their actions don’t actually constitute illegal harassment. In these cases, the best option is to work with the debt collector and discuss a more appropriate solution such as only calling between certain times. A good collector will be able to accommodate you while you work to pay off the debt so that you never have to speak to them again.
Another option for instant relief from creditor calls is to file for bankruptcy. If you’re tired of being bothered by a debt collector, then getting rid of the debt is perhaps the best way to get rid of the collector. Either a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy will work to accomplish this goal.
Upon filing for bankruptcy, collectors are no longer allowed to contact you legally. This means no more calls, no more letters, no more in-person meetings. When you file for bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into effect immediately and legal action can be taken against any debt collector that violates the stay.
Again, keep in mind that debt collector harassment is not legal. Annoying debt collectors are part of life, but debt collectors that are harassing you are something that should be dealt with legally. Nobody has a right to harass you. Violation of Arizona’s debt collection statute is a class 1 misdemeanor. Report violations of this statute to the city prosecutor or the state attorney general.
You can also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Even if you aren’t sure about the legality of their actions, a complaint could be a good first step as they’ll work to get a response within about 15 days.
If the behavior that the debt collector used went against the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act then a lawsuit can be filed at a federal level. This won’t eliminate your debt in any way but it can put an end to the harassment you’re facing.
Where Can I Get Help?
If you’re dealing with debt collector harassment, then reach out to Israel & Gerity. An experienced attorney can help you determine if the harassment is illegal, what can be done about it, and what steps you can take to start addressing the debt. With a helping hand, you can ensure that you never have to sit by and put up with debt collector harassment again.