This article was written by Lemberg Law staff, and reviewed by Sergei Lemberg, the managing attorney of Lemberg Law.
Yes. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act specifically gives you the right to sue a debt collector for harassment. If a debt collector is found to have engaged in harassing behavior, you are entitled to up to $1,000 in damages, along with court costs and attorney fees.
Debt collector harassment violates the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. (FDCPA). The law, which is codified in 15 U.S.C. 1692, prohibits debt collectors from engaging in a number of specific behaviors. Under the FDCPA, if a debt collection agency violates the law, you have the power to sue for debt harassment.
Types of debt collector harassment or abuse
Under the FDCPA, debt collection collection agencies can’t harass or abuse you. For example, a debt collector can’t threaten to physically hurt you, nor can they threaten to smear your reputation. A debt collector also can’t swear at you or use profanity. In Horkey v. JVDB & Associates, Inc., a debt collector phoned and told Ms. Horkey’s coworker, “Tell Amanda to stop being such a f—- b—-.” Ms. Horkey sued, and the court ruled that the collector violated the FDCPA.
Debt collectors are notorious for calling consumers nonstop to pressure them into paying. The FDCPA prohibits calling repeatedly or continuously, but doesn’t specific the number of times a debt collector can call. Generally speaking, if a debt collector is calling several times a week, that’s harassment. In addition, the law says that it’s illegal for a debt collector to call you at your workplace when they know that you’re not allowed to receive calls at work. In Austin v. Great Lakes Collection Bureau, Ms. Austin won her lawsuit against the debt collector because they had continued to call her at work, even though she had told them to stop.
Other types of illegal debt collector practices
The FDCPA outlines a number of other unfair debt collection practices. For example, a debt collector can’t talk to another person about your debt and they must identify themselves as debt collectors when they call you. In Foti v. NCO Financial Systems, the court ruled that it was an FDCPA violation when NCO left a vague voicemail asking the person to return their call without saying that they were from a debt collection agency. They can’t threaten to sue you if they have no legal authority to do so, or if they don’t actually intend to follow through.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you feel as though you are being harassed by a debt collector, chances are good that they are violating the law. There are some cases that are particularly egregious, and others that are more run-of-the-mill.
This case demonstrates a classic case of debt collectors going far. In 2011 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued a California company that harassed consumers by threatening to kill them and their pets, threatening to desecrate the bodies of their deceased relatives, and revealing their debts to third parties, including employers and neighbors. This is an extreme case, but it illustrates how the length to which some debt collection agencies will go.
If you are uncertain whether or not a debt collector harassed you, it’s important to contact an attorney who is experienced in protecting your rights under the FDCPA.
Can I collect damages if I successfully sue a collector for debt harassment?
The FDCPA says that consumers are entitled to sue debt collection agencies. If a debt collector has violated the law, you can recover up to $1,000 in statutory damages, court costs, and attorney fees. This means that you should not have to pay a dime out of pocket to have an attorney represent you in your FDCPA case.
If a debt collector has been hounding you, call 475-277-1600 for a free, no obligation case evaluation. Our attorneys have experience in fighting debt collectors and standing up for consumers. You have rights. We’ll help you get the justice you deserve.
Austin v. Great Lakes Collection Bureau, 834 F. Supp. 557 (D. Conn. 1993)
Horkey v. JVDB & Associates, Inc., 179 F. Supp. 2d 861 (N.D. Ill. 2002)
Foti v. NCO Financial Systems, Inc., 424 F. Supp. 2d 643 (S.D.N.Y. 2006)
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