There are very few things more embarrassing than having a bill collector call you at work. Besides the humility, it can also cause problems with your employer and jeopardize your employment.
Unfortunately, bill collectors rarely care about these things as their concern is only for collecting the amount due and making a profit or commission on what is collected.
What Bill Collectors Cannot Do to You:
In order to arm yourself when dealing with debt collectors you must be informed. The first step is being aware of the laws and what collection agents can and cannot do.
First of all, many consumers are unaware that bill collectors are prohibited by law from threatening debtors with arrest. There is no debtor’s prison where people go that do not pay their bills. Collectors are also not allowed to tell you they will seize or garnish your property unless they are permitted by law to do so and actually intend on it. If they are not intending to take legal action, they are also prohibited from making threatening statements implying that they will.
Harassment is also prohibited, which includes using threats of violence or harm, obscene language or even repeatedly using the phone to harass someone.
Can a Bill Collector Call You at Work?
If a bill collector is calling you at work, they must still follow the guidelines and laws regarding collection of accounts. Collection agents cannot call at inconvenient times, such as before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. They also cannot contact you at work if you notify them that you are not allowed to receive those calls at your place of employment. You are obligated to notify them either orally or in writing, with writing being the preferred method so you have proof that you have notified them and requested that they stop.
You will need to document the conversations and keep records of who you spoke with, the time of day, the day they called and that you specifically requested the calls to stop from the agency. At the beginning of any collection call, specifically ask for the name of the agency, address, phone number and name of the person you are speaking with. If you have more than one agency contacting you, it is important that you document each one separately.
Any correspondence made through the mail should include the account number and what you are requesting. In this case, specifically note that you cannot receive collection calls at your place of employment and to stop immediately. Anything sent through the mail should be sent certified with return receipt requested.
You will still owe the debt and the debtor is permitted to contact you to notify you if they are taking further action or filing a lawsuit. Otherwise, this should stop the phone calls at work.
What If the Debt Collector Still Calls Me At Work?
If the debt collector continues to call you at work, after you have requested that they stop you will probably need to contact a Fair Debt Practices Attorney. From January to August of 2011, the number of lawsuits against debt collection agencies for alleged violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act jumped to over 7200. These lawsuits specifically claimed violations by collection agents and can potentially result in enormous cost and expenses in fees as well as settlement awards from the collection agencies.
You have the right to sue the collection agency and may be entitled to up to $1,000 even if you can’t prove that you suffered because of the illegal practices. If you do win your lawsuit, you may be entitled to attorneys fees, and court expenses. Additionally, you may find that others have been subjected to the same illegal activity and can sue as part of a class action lawsuit which may result in damages up to $500,000 or 1% of the collector’s net worth.
Most of the time however, bill collectors want to avoid the cost and trouble of lawsuits and will stop calling you when you request that they do so. The record number of lawsuits filed against debt collectors in this year alone indicates that consumers are becoming more informed on what is legal and what is illegal concerning debt collection practices. If you feel that a debt collector has violated any of the terms of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you should contact and notify the Federal Trade Commission as well as seek out an attorney that specializes in this type of violation.