Under the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), creditors cannot “harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt”. Common examples of illegal harassment are:
- The use or threat of use of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person.
- The use of obscene or profane language or language, the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader.
- The publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a creditor.
- The advertisement for sale of any debt to coerce payment of the debt.
- Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.
- The placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.
Debtors have several options when it comes to ending creditor harassment. First and perhaps most uncomfortable option is for a debtor to try reasoning with the creditor. While this may cause embarrassment, you can talk with creditors when they call and honestly explain why you are in default. You can try reasoning with your creditors and ask for easier payment arrangements. Unfortunately, not all debt collectors act logically and this method will often prove insufficient.
If the creditor or debt collector will not listen to reason, you can send the creditor a “cease & desist” letter instructing them not to contact you. Once the creditor receives this letter (for consumer debts), the creditor cannot contact you except under very limited circumstances. Violations of the FDCPA or California’s Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act result in substantial penalties against the creditor.
Another option is for bankruptcy. Once a debtor files for bankruptcy, the automatic stay requires creditors and debt collectors to stop nearly all debt collection activities, including contacting you about a delinquent account. While it may take a week or so for your creditors to receive this notice, creditors must also stop calling if you inform them that you filed a bankruptcy petition. In order to ensure creditors stop harassing you, the law provides penalties and fines for debt collectors that continue to contact you after you have filed for bankruptcy.
If you are in Southern California and experience creditor harassment or other debt problems, please call me at (619) 448-2129 to set up an appointment.
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