No. Federal law expressly prohibits debt collectors from using or threatening to use violence when attempting to collect a debt.
In the U.S. consumers are protected by federal law from abusive, deceptive, or unfair debt collection practices. Section 806 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits debt collectors from using or threatening to use violence – or engaging in any other criminal activity – intended to cause harm to you, your family, your reputation, or your property. Before the FDCPA was enacted, many people who owed money suffered vicious harassment from debt collectors who used obscene and profane language, racial and ethnic slurs, and even threats to the physical safety and lives of consumers and their family members.
Debt collection threats
A debt collector can violate Section 806 in different ways. Under the law, a debt collector doesn’t need to verbally speak to a consumer in order to threaten physical harm. The act of trying to collect a debt by coming to a consumer’s home holding a baseball bat puts a reasonable person in fear of their physical safety or the safety of their property. Pounding on the door with a clearly visible wooden or metal baseball bat slung over the debt collector’s shoulder or, perhaps, in the hands of the henchman behind the debt collector in a Mafia-like scene, is precisely the type of conduct prohibited by the FDCPA. Not only would such conduct be a FDCPA violation, but depending on the facts it could also lead to criminal charges like assault and even racketeering.
In court, debt collector defendants have tried to get around the rule prohibiting threats of violence in collection activities by arguing that they did not in fact make any threats to the consumer. Instead, they argue that they simply took action. However, federal courts have rejected this argument, as it goes against the premise of the FDCPA, and ruled that the law’s provision against threatening to take an illegal action also includes actually taking that action. (See Marchant vs. U.S. Collections West; Harrington vs. CACV of Colorado, LLC; and Foster vs. D.B.S. Collection Agency.)
Although in-person collection attempts are uncommon, they are not expressly prohibited by law, so long as the collection activity does not become harassing or abusive. If a debt collector tries to collect a debt in person, they:
- Can ask you for money.
- Cannot visit before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
- Cannot come to your door at a time they know or should know is inconvenient for you.
If I am threatened by a collection agency, what should I do?
If you are physically harmed or threatened by a debt collector, immediately report the incident to law enforcement. They will follow up with applicable criminal charges. Next, contact an experienced debt collection abuse lawyer. The FDCPA is primarily self-enforcing. This means that you must bring a legal action in federal court against the debt collector who harassed you in order to recover up to $1,000, which are the damages allowed under the FDCPA.
Ready to take action?
If you believe a debt collector has violated your rights, submit our case evaluation form, or call 844-685-9200 today. Lemberg Law will provide you with a no-cost consultation with zero obligation. Our experienced and knowledgeable debt collection abuse team is happy to help you get the justice you deserve.
Marchant vs. U.S. Collections West, Inc., 12 F. Supp. 2d 1001, 1006 (D. Ariz. 1998); Harrington vs. CACV of Colorado, LLC, 508 F.Supp.2d 128, 136-37 (D. Mass. 2007); Foster vs. D.B.S. Collection Agency, 463 F.Supp.2d 783, 803 (S.D. OH.2006).
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