By: Robert J. Nahoum
Debt Collector Harassing You On the Phone? When Can They Call and How Often?
Under federal debt collection laws know as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (or FDCPA), debt collectors cannot call you before 8 am or after 9 pm. Debt collectors are also precluded from calling you an unreasonable number of times. What is an unreasonable number of debt collection calls? Debt collectors are prohibited from contacting consumers by telephone “repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.” “Continuously” means making a series of telephone calls, one right after the other. “Repeatedly” means calling with excessive frequency under the circumstances.
In addition to these prohibitions, debt collectors are not allowed to use profane or other abusive language, contact you after receiving a cease and desist letter from you, threaten you with consequences for refusing to pay that legally can’t be taken (like going to jail or violence).
So what do you do if debt collectors are harassing you on the phone? Under the FDCPA, you have the right to tell a collection agency to immediately cease, desist and stop calling you. To do this, send a letter by certified mail stating that you want the collection agency to cease all communications with you. After that, they can only call you to tell you that collection efforts have ended or that the collection agency or original creditor intends to sue you or take advantage of some other legal remedy (which they must actually intend to do!).
If the debt collector violates the FDCPA, you can sue for statutory damages up to $1,000.00 plus actual damages (like pain and suffering) and your attorney’s fees. In FDCPA cases, most good consumer lawyers don’t charge their clients a penny out of pocket.