What Counts as Collector Harassment?

Knowing where the line is in case a collector crosses it.

Harassing calls from debt collectors

If you have a debt in collections, it’s actually in the collector’s best interest to make you uncomfortable in an effort to get you to pay. The idea is to get you unhappy enough that you finally give in and pay them back. But they don’t have carte blanche to do that by any means necessary. There are limits.

And those limits are set by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and protected by federal agencies like the FTC and CFPB. The information below can help you understand what does and doesn’t violate your rights according to the FDCPA. If a collector has violated your rights or you want to get a resolution to your debt problems so the collectors will get off your back, call us or complete the form to the right.

Defining harassment by the FDCPA

The FTC takes time to define exactly what counts as harassment according to their legally established definition.

Here are the actions a collector can take that cross the line:

  • They make threats of violence or personal harm
  • They threaten to publish your name on a list of bad debtors or deadbeats
  • They curse at you or use obscene or profane language
  • They call you constantly, over and over again, in an effort to annoy you

Pop Quiz

According to the FTC and CFPB, how many times does a collector have to call you for it to be considered harassment?

a) 5 times in a day

b) 10 times in a day

c) 20 times in a week

d) There is no set number

Reveal Answer

In an FTC complaint, you only have to prove that the behavior was harassing, which means showing that the collector call repeatedly. In Massachusetts, calls are limited to twice per week.

d) There is no set number

Return to question

There are also some other things collectors are prohibited from doing and saying:

  • They can’t threaten you with jail time
  • They can’t threaten wage or tax garnishment or property repossession without a court order
  • They can’t threaten to take property without a court order
  • They can’t threaten that they’re taking court action unless they actually intend to do so

Defining false statements by the FDCPA

In addition to direct harassment, there are also strict rules about a collector making false or misleading statements. So collectors aren’t allowed to lie.

Here is what collectors specifically can’t lie about:

  • They can’t say they’re attorneys
  • They can’t act like a federal or state government agency
  • They can’t say they’re from a credit bureau (they also can’t lie about you and your debt to a credit bureau)
  • They can’t lie about how much you owe
  • They can’t make things seem like legal documents if they aren’t, or make legal documents seem like no big deal to get you to sign
  • Send you documents in an attempt to make them seem like they come from a government agency

Defining unfair practices by the FDCPA

The last type of collector abuse falls into the category of unfair collection practices. Outside of harassing you and lying, there are also a certain set of actions a collector can’t take according to fair debt collection practices.

So here are some extra things they can’t do to you:

  • They can’t charge additional interest or fees on top of what you owe; collectors can’t add any penalties to debts
  • They can’t deposit a post-dated check earlier than the date indicated
  • They can’t contact people you know or your place of business except to verify that you are you (i.e. they can’t say how much you owe, how rude you are, or how bad a consumer you are for not paying your debts)
  • They can’t contact you by postcard or using a method that intentionally broadcasts your debt to the postman and your neighbors.
  • They cannot call early (before 8:00 AM) or late (after 9:00 PM).

Fact: Time violations are the third most common type of collection complaint according to the FTC.