If you looked at your credit report today, would you like what you saw? It’s a simple question, but one fraught with other issues, particularly for the 68 million Americans who already had debt in collections before the pandemic began, according to the Urban Institute. Fast forward a year and add millions of unemployment claims to the equation and the problem is only multiplied – but no matter how significant and individual’s problem with debt is, no one has to put up with debt harassment.
What Is Debt Harassment?
Though rarely discussed, debt harassment is an unfortunately common problem for those in collections and it can manifest in a range of ways. For example, if a debt collector calls repeatedly with the goal of annoying or harassing you, including by using profanity or making threats, that is considered debt harassment. It is also harassment if a company publishes a list of people with unpaid debts or if debt collectors call without identifying themselves. These behaviors are banned under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and consumers who have been harassed by debt collectors can actually sue them for damages.
It is, of course, not illegal for debt collectors to contact you at all. Debt collectors do have the right to pursue debts, and that is in fact their function. This is true even if you are actively working to resolve your debt with the original creditor or by pursuing debt consolidation or another solution. They do, however, have to behave in an ethical manner.
Defending Against Debt Harassment
If you are experiencing debt harassment, you don’t just need to stand by. If you are being subjected to repetitive calls, unsubstantiated threats, or other inappropriate actions from a debt collector, a debt harassment lawyer can help. By doing so, you can not only stop the behaviors, but you may even be able to use their illegal behavior to renegotiate your debt. That’s not the only reason to contact a lawyer about your debt harassment case, though.
Another advantaged to working with a lawyer to address debt collection issues is that it can give you as strategic advantage. Debt harassment lawyer Rowdy Williams explains, “Debt harassment is unprofessional, unethical, and illegal, and it takes advantage of the power differential between debt collectors and their targets. But when you have legal representation, you take back that power. Just saying you’ve contacted a lawyer can stop a lot of harassment.”
A Growing Problem
Debt harassment isn’t a new problem, but the ongoing pandemic has certainly made the problem more acute. Despite disastrous unemployment numbers and more pressing financial concerns, debt collectors continue to contact individuals, harassing those who have no money to pay them. In response, a number of legal groups have actually stepped up to suggest debt collection should be paused, much as evictions have been, though they have been largely unsuccessful.
In addition to working with a lawyer, there are other options for thwarting debt harassment, and it all starts with knowing that what these debt collectors are doing to you is illegal. When you know your rights and keep a cool head when speaking to debt collectors, you’re more likely to make headway in these interactions. Debt harassment only works when the collection agency thinks you’ll be swayed or frighted by it – you need to show them that their strategies won’t work.
It’s hard for regulatory bodies to crack down on unethical debt collectors because so many of their behaviors happen in private interactions, but you can take action against them yourself by refusing to take the bait. You are not defenseless against debt harassment, so don’t let them make you feel like you are.