How can debt
collectors get away with harassing me at home and work?
The short answer to this question is that they can’t get away
with harassment, if you report their illegal activity. Of
course, you need to find out what’s legal and what isn’t. The
debt collection agencies are unlikely to tell you. Once you
determine that the collectors are using illegal tactics, you can
begin to take action.
Video: Answering Machine Tape of Debt
Collection Phone Call
What are the steps in reporting illegal collection
you need to know that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has
oversight authority for the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA),
which governs how debts are collected. There are three ways to
report illegal collection activity to the FTC. The preferred
method is to report at this
website. The forms are self explanatory and easy to fill out.
If you are not comfortable with filling out electronic forms,
or don’t always have access to the internet, you can write the
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, D.C. 20580
Finally, if you feel you just have talk to someone about
what’s been happening, you can call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP
What information should I have before I contact the
You need to collect as much information as possible. The more
specifics you have, the easier it is for the FTC to investigate.
(They do investigate, and violators do get fined or shut down.)
Look up the rules and refer to the specific rule that has been
violated. Make a note of the date and time of the contact with
the debt collector, as well as where it took place. Include the
telephone number where you were contacted, and, if you have
caller ID, the number from which you were called. Ask for and
record the name of the person you talk to. If you have the
equipment, record the conversation. Under federal law, as long
as one party knows the recording is being made it is legal to
record. If threats were made, take notes so you can quote the
If you sent or received any documents, keep copies. If you
used registered or certified mail, keep copies of those receipts
as well. Cooperate fully with the FTC investigators.
Are those the only steps I can take?
Video: Ten Ways Debt Collectors Break the
In addition to reporting to and cooperating with the FTC, you
have the right to sue under the FDCPA. If you are successful you
can recover our actual damages, plus up to $1,000 in
discretionary penalties, plus costs and attorney fees. While the
costs and attorney fees may not seem like a big deal to you,
they are very important. The ability to recover attorney fees
means that, if you have a good case, you will probably be able
to find an attorney to take the case. For most of these
violations the damages will not be enough to make it worthwhile
for most people to sue if they have to pay their own attorney
fees. However, if the other side has to pay attorney fees the
whole picture changes. The attorney fees can amount to many
times the damages you may recover. If the creditor has competent
attorneys and you have good documentation, they will advise
their client to settle the case. Class action suits can also be
brought under the FDCPA.