The events of the last few years have left many Illinois residents struggling financially. Many people have fallen behind on bills or mortgage payments, causing them to rely on credit cards or loans to survive.
Unfortunately, this usually only leaves many people with loads of debt they cannot pay. If this sounds like the situation you are in, this is when you will likely start hearing from creditors.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Creditors are legally allowed to contact you if you owe a valid debt, but how do you know when their behavior crosses the line and becomes creditor harassment?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”) forbids creditors from engaging in abusive, harassing or oppressive actions when contacting consumers. It is illegal for creditors to bully consumers with this type of behavior.
Some of these actions are obvious. When the same creditor calls you every hour of every day, swears at you during conversations, threatens to “sue you for everything you have,” or even worse, threatens you with violence, these are clear forms of abusive and harassing behavior.
Creditors also cannot threaten you with arrest or criminal penalties. Debt collection cases are civil cases, and most everyone knows that debtor’s prisons do not exist anymore.
Therefore, any threats involving the criminal justice system are not only false, but they are also illegal.
However, other actions are subtler but may still be illegal. For example, a creditor cannot refuse to tell you who they are when they contact you, or what specific debt they are contacting you about.
They cannot make false representations about the amount of the debt you owe, or claim that they are an attorney. Most attorneys who represent creditors do not contact consumers personally. A staff member from their firm or a representative from the credit company will usually contact you.
Sometimes, creditors will try to shame you into paying your debts by saying they are going to publish your name on a list of consumers who are not paying their debts. This is a violation of the FDCPA.
What you can do to fight back
You should document every single contact you receive from the creditor. Save any voicemails, emails or letters.
While you may not be able to record telephone conversations, make a list of each day and time a creditor calls and you speak with them.
You can stop creditor harassment by filing a claim against the creditor for violating the FDCPA. You have a legal right to be treated fairly and respectfully by creditors.
Asserting this right can not only stop the creditor harassment, but you could potentially recover damages. It is a good idea to talk with an attorney about your options.