Debt Collectors: Your Rights and How to Handle These Calls

Debt collectors are a huge source of anxiety for anyone owing money they can’t afford to repay. Even when the individual is pleasant and understanding, these conversations with debt collectors are difficult, frustrating, and often, a source of embarrassment.

However, debt collectors aren’t always pleasant or understanding, and at times their phone calls are much worse than inconvenient. Interactions with debt collectors can even veer into abusive or illegal. When a debt collector acts unlawfully, the debtor has rights under federal law to handle these calls and other communication.

Can You Stop Harassing Behavior?

Debt collectors are prohibited from engaging in abusive or harassing behavior under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA. The FDCPA covers several areas of communication between the debtor and debt collector, including the proscription of specific behaviors the debt collector cannot utilize to recover a debt.

A debt collector is prohibited from taking the following actions: calling at unreasonable hours, calling the debtor repeatedly or incessantly, using threats of violence, threatening the debtor with a jail sentence, using profane language or obscene terminology, claiming to be an attorney, or lying about the amount a debtor owes. As well, it could be illegal for the debt collector to contact the debtor at work. This prohibition is at the behest of the employer.

If a debt collector engages in any of these behaviors, or any illegal activity under the New York Penal Code, a debtor can take actions to stop the abusive actions, including contact an attorney.

What to Do if a Debt Collector Breaks the Law?

Far too often debt collectors violate the FDCPA, but the debtor doesn’t take action. Many people silently handle harassing or abusive behavior because they don’t want any additional problems, while others are unaware that action against debt collectors is possible.

If a debt collector engages in an illegal activity under a federal law, by trespassing on your property, or otherwise the first action is to document any and all illegal or abusive actions. If you can collect physical evidence, such as saving voicemails, do so. Otherwise, take notes regarding any illegal behavior by the debt collector.

However, be very aware that while New York permits phone calls to be recorded based on the consent of one party to the call, that isn’t true in all states. If you are uncertain where a debt collector is located or the laws of other states, don’t record the calls. Instead, you can have another person present for the conversations, which is legal in all states.

Second, send a request for communication from the debt collector to stop. The FDCPA gives debtors the right to tell debt collectors to cease phone calls and other contacts.

Filing a Complaint About Illegal Communication or Behavior?

When a debt collector engages in unlawful behavior under the FDCPA, a debtor can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission to stop the illegal calls and other communication. You will need to attach or send any evidence you have of the abusive communication or behavior by the debt collector and provide information on the debt collector, such as name, collection agency, phone number, and other identifying information.

The Federal Trade Commission is the federal agency tasked with monitoring debt collection and also handling these complaints, but they aren’t the only outlet for a complaint. At the state level, New York has a debt collection law and regulations handled by the New York Department of Financial Services.

Also, New York City Consumer Protection Law affords some of the country’s strongest rights to debtors in the country. If you live in NYC, you can contact the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

Not Ready to Act Against a Debt Collector?

If you are dealing with abusive or harassing behavior from a debt collector, you can speak with a bankruptcy or foreclosure attorney about your options. Simon Haysom, LLC located in Long Island regularly handles all types of bankruptcy and the representation of a debtor through this and other debt restructurings. To speak with attorney Simon Haysom, call (845)-294-3596.



The information in this blog post (“Post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this Post should be construed as legal advice from Simon Haysom, LLC or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.


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