Creditor Harassment Laws: What Debtors in Alabama Need to Know
What is Creditor Harassment?
When a debtor owes a creditor money, that creditor has a legal right and a financial obligation to seek repayment. With that said, there are limits to what creditors, other bill collectors, and their agents can do and say in order to get that repayment.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act of 2010 establishes clear legal guidelines for creditors communicating with debtors. It was specifically created because the Federal Trade Commission found that creditors and debt collection agencies were using increasingly deceptive, unfair, and abusive tactics in their communications.
Under Section 806 of the Act, the following tactics are specifically defined as harassment or abuse and, therefore, illegal:
- Threats of violence or criminal action against the debtor, their property, or reputation
- The use of profane language or language that could be interpreted as abusive
- The publication of debtors’ names (except to specific credit reporting agencies)
- Advertising or threatening a sale of debt to coerce payment
- Intentionally using repeated telephone calls to annoy, abuse, harass, or intimidate
How Can I Tell if my Creditors are Harassing Me?
- If a bill collector is calling you on the phone repeatedly at times you’ve specifically identified as inconvenient, you might be the victim of creditor harassment.
- If a bill collector is calling you but will not disclose their name, you might be the victim of creditor harassment.
- If a bill collector threatens you with potential damage to your reputation or property, you might be the victim of creditor harassment.
- If a bill collector threatens to contact anyone you have not specifically authorized to talk with creditors about your debt, you might be the victim of creditor harassment.
- If a bill collector threatens to transfer or sell your debt to a more punitive agency, you might be the victim of creditor harassment.
- If a bill collector curses you out or uses abusive language, you might be the victim of creditor harassment.
Steps You Can Take to Reduce Creditor Harassment
Your best ally against creditor harassment is a bankruptcy attorney, but there are a few steps you can take yourself if you begin to believe a creditor’s communications are becoming abusive.
- Get Proof of Debt in Writing
If you think a bill collector is lying or misrepresenting the nature of your debt in an attempt to extract unfair additional payment or intimidate you, request a written proof of debt. Getting proof of debt is your right as a debtor, and that document will clearly lay out exactly how much you owe.
If a creditor can’t provide proof of debt, you’re off the hook! Even in a worst-case scenario where your debt is as serious as the bill collector describes, though, your written proof of debt is an ideal document to bring to your lawyer to start an informed discussion about bankruptcy and other options.
- Negotiate a Repayment Plan
Bill collectors often save some of their nastiest tactics for debtors they know can pay. If paying your debt is manageable in a given timeframe (but not the one they suggest), you can propose a payment plan to your creditors.
Based on your proof of debt, you can come up with a monthly or quarterly plan that allows you to make payments toward your balance. With that said, any debt adjustment will affect your credit or tax situation in some way, so it’s really best to consult a lawyer during the negotiation process to make sure you’re entering into an agreement that works for you – not just your creditors.
Get a Creditor Harassment Attorney on Your Side!
If creditors or collection agencies are calling you at all hours of the day and night, threatening your long-term well-being, or making you feel uncomfortable, you need a bankruptcy attorney on your side!
The Law Offices of Joseph G. Pleva is an Alabama legal firm that specializes in providing bankruptcy protections for everyday consumers like you. To learn more about The Law Offices of Joseph G. Pleva’s bankruptcy services, click here.