Stop Debt Collector Harassment by Debt Collectors and Creditors
We all get a constant stream of phone calls, e-mails and text messages daily, reminding us of doctor appointments, from solicitors or advertisers, and family and friends checking up on us. However, when we add to those daily occurrences a barrage of calls and even text messages from debt collectors seeking payments on debts that we are having trouble paying in this poor economic climate, this can really put a strain on our daily lives. This is especially true if the calls are repeatedly made by an auto-dialer making it difficult to even speak with a debt collection representative to resolve the issue and your anxiety.
Sometimes the debt collector harassment calls are received at work, during sleep, or in the presence of company, which can make the calls inconvenient or embarrassing. Additionally, if the calls are made to a cellphone, you could be charged for the minutes used and the messages received, adding to your financial difficulties.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act
The TCPA is a valuable resource for shielding consumers from debt collector harassment. This is true when the calls are made to a cell without prior express consent to the collector or original creditor. Violations of the TCPA are widespread in the debt collection community and regularly go without punishment. The most frequent violation by debt collectors is the prohibition on usage of automated dialing systems (robo dialers) to call cell phones without the prior consent by the consumer. Leaving artificial voice messages are also prohibited. A consumer can consent to receiving debt collection calls by listing their cellphone number on a lending application or by providing the number to the debt collector as a method contact for the consumer.
However, a consumer may revoke their consent to have the creditor call a consumer’s cellphone, even if it was listed on a lending application, by mailing a cease and desist letter to the creditor or debt collector by certified mail. Following the creditors receipt of this letter, all calls made by an automated dialing system (or robo-dialer) to the consumer’s cell phone are a violation of TCPA. The TCPA statute allows recovery of $500 per violation/call, and it is not uncommon for creditors to continually violate the provisions of this statute and expose themselves to thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars in statutory damages.
Also, note that when a debt collector is involved, a TCPA violation can often be accompanied by a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) claim, and FDCPA claims, unlike TCPA claims, allow for the recovery of attorneys’ fees. The FDCPA prohibits certain types of “abusive and deceptive” conduct (debt collector harassment) in the process of collecting debts including the following:
- Call you at work despite you or your employer’s requests to stop.
- Call you at home despite your requests to stop.
- Abusive or harassing phone calls to you.
- Talking to others about your debt.
- Adding unauthorized collection charges.
- Threats of criminal prosecution or reporting to Internal Revenue Service.
- Threats of garnishment unless they already have a judgment against you.
- Failure to state the exact amount of the debt in initial demand letters.
- Insisting on payment within less than 30 days of their initial demand letter.
- Bad debt buyers attempting to collect old debts they cannot substantiate.
- Debt buyers collecting on old debts, which have not been paid on in more than 6 years.
- Failing to notify you of your right to ask that they verify the debt they are collecting.
- Failing to give you a written notice of the debt within five days after you are first contacted.
The law has numerous safeguards and deterrents in place to protect consumers from these types of debt collector harassment by debt collectors and creditors that unnecessarily add to the stress of daily life. Consumers have the right to be treated with respect, dignity fairness and truth. When collectors violate these fundamental rights they are in violation of the law.
If you feel that you have been a victim of such debt collector harassment or if you have further questions call or email attorney Rex Anderson. Rex is a consumer lawyer suing abusive debt collectors across Michigan in Federal Courts. Rex helps people from all over Michigan, including Mount Pleasant, Flint, Bay City, Saginaw, Lapeer, Traverse City and Detroit. Rex also helps folks get a fresh start discharging their debts by declaring bankruptcy.