Debt collectors or collections agencies can often be aggressive in trying to collect on a debt; however, federal law provides strict limitations governing this type of behavior. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) restricts the types of behavior collections agencies can engage in to collect a debt. In particular, it provides that collections agencies may not use deceptive practices or harass you. Although a full list of these prohibited behaviors is available in the FDCPA itself, the following are some examples:
- Calling you without identifying that they are a debt collector;
- Threatening to use violence or otherwise harm you;
- Engage in repeated phone calls that are intended to harass or annoy you;
- Publish your name on a list of people who owe debts, aside from reporting the debt to a credit reporting agency;
- Misrepresenting the amount of the debt;
- Misrepresenting that they are an attorney; or
- Threatening to have you arrested or take actions that cannot be legally taken.
If a debt collected has engaged in any of the above or similar types of behaviors it may constitute illegal harassment, and you should consider reporting the collections agency to an appropriate authority. Remember, it is a good tip to keep a record of whom you talk to on the phone and to keep a record of all physical documents that relate to the collections, including documents that are mailed to you.
How to Report a Collections Agency
There are a number of different ways to report a collections agency. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the federal law governing the behavior of collections agencies, and it is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). One way to report a collections agency is by contacting the local FTC office. On their website, the FTC has provided a map of each of the regional FTC offices and their mailing addresses. In addition, the FTC has a toll-free hotline at 877-FTC-HELP (382-4357) and an online complaint form.
Another government agency that investigates and resolves complaints is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB has an easy-to-use website that allows you to submit a complaint online and to track the progress of their investigation of your complaint.
Another way to report a collections agency for harassment is by contacting your state’s attorney general. This is because each state has laws that govern collections agencies, and the attorney general’s office will be able to help you determine your rights under state law and may bring enforcement proceedings against the collections agency. In New York, the state law governing debt collection practices is Article 29-H of the General Business Law. The New York Attorney General’s office has regional offices across the state, and a consumer hotline at 800-771-7755.
You can also report a collections agency to the Better Business Bureau, which is a popular nonprofit organization that rates business and documents consumer disputes.
Lastly, you can hire an attorney and bring a private action against a debt collections agency under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you are able to prove harassment, you may be able to recover any money damages you suffered as a result of their behavior, legal fees, and other statutory damages.
Contact us today for more information.