Debt collector harassment: how to know it when you hear it

Sometimes people think of debt collector harassment as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart wrote of obscenity: “I know it when I see it.” The phrase simply means that the definitions of “harassment” and “obscenity” can vary from person to person, and are not always easy to put into words, but we know what harassment and obscenity are when we see them or hear them.

Bright lines

That said, there are still some bright lines of behavior that debt collectors cannot cross when they call you. For instance, debt collectors cannot lie to you or misrepresent to you the amount you owe. They are also prohibited by law (the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or FDCPA) from falsely presenting themselves as attorneys or law enforcement officials.

Types of threats

They also aren’t allowed to threaten to have you arrested or threaten physical harm. They can’t claim that they’re going to embarrass you by publishing your name in a list of deadbeats. And they’re also not allowed to curse or use profane or obscene language (you’ll know this when you hear it, too).

Debt collectors also can’t threaten to garnish your wages or repossess your property without a court order. In fact, they can’t even threaten you with legal action – unless they actually intend to take that action. In other words, no idle threats of lawsuits are allowed.

Bad intentions

They also can’t call you over and over and over again with the intent of annoying or harassing you.

A skilled consumer law professional can explain your available legal options and help you determine how best to stop the harassment and protect your rights.