Debt Collector Harassment During COVID-19: How to Protect Your Consumer Rights

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COVID has caused an unprecedented level of financial devastation: record job loss, businesses destroyed, crippling medical debt….AND YET, THE DEBT COLLECTORS DON’T STOP.

Tens of millions of Americans have been forced to choose between putting food on the table or paying bills.  And while the rest of us are coping with disaster, some unscrupulous debt collectors are using high pressure tactics which go unchecked.  Not only that, but in many cases debt collector harassment and aggressive debt collection activity has been getting worse and worse, because there is a race to get to the decreasing assets of consumers during these trying times.

Many government bodies have temporarily paused collection of some debts owed to the government (e.g. student loans and federally-backed mortgages), but private debt collectors continue to collect on credit card debt, medical bills, private student loans, and more. 

If you’re experiencing debt collector harassment, call us.  In the meantime, here’s what you can do to fight back and protect your consumer rights.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the three most important things you can do are:

  1. TELL THEM YOUR FINANCES HAVE BEEN IMPACTED BY COVID-19
  2. ASK WHAT RELIEF PACKAGES THEY OFFER
  3. DOCUMENT ANY AGREEMENT IN WRITING SIGNED BY THEM

Here are some additional tips:

Ask for an Accommodation

Sometimes, simply asking your creditor or collector for accommodation by explaining your situation can provide you some relief on debt collection harassment. As soon as you believe you may fall behind on payments, you can contact your creditors and ask for an accommodation.

And always remember that even if you have fallen behind, debt collectors are still obligated to comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and other consumer protection statutes such as the Maryland Consumer Debt Collection Act

Verify the Debt

If you’re contacted by debt collectors, make sure that the debt is actually your debt and that the amount claimed is correct before making any sort of payment or promise of payment. Sometimes debts can be accidentally in your name when it’s not your debt. It’s also important to check whether an old debt is time-barred, as this might mean you are no longer obligated to pay.

Ask the collector to send a written validation notice that details the amount owed, who the creditor is, and how to dispute the debt. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has sample letters for consumers trying to communicate with debt collectors.

Be Wary of Scam Artists

Another reason our consumer rights attorneys always urge people to verify their debt is because of debt collection scams.

Debt collection scams are, unfortunately, quite common and often involve scam artists tricking people into paying them money for a made-up debt that they owe.

Before giving out any of your personal information, making a payment, or even agreeing to make a payment to someone claiming to be a debt collector, it’s imperative to make sure that the collector is legitimate.

It’s well within your rights to ask for:

  • The debt collector’s name
  • The name of the company they work for
  • Their work address, and
  • Their telephone number
  • Their license registration

Collectors who refuse to answer these questions or give you false information are likely to be scammers. Remember to check on the details they give you by calling the company yourself and verifying the information.

Tell the Collectors In Writing to Stop Calling

Consumers being harassed by phone may send a certified letter telling the collector to stop calling.

Ensure that you keep copies of this letter in case further debt collector harassment occurs. Sending this letter doesn’t cancel out your debt — you still may owe. But stopping harassment and constant communication gives you a better chance to organize yourself and come up with a plan on what to do.

Seek Legal Help from the Debt Collection Harassment Attorneys at The Holland Law Firm

Need more help handling aggressive debt collectors and debt collection harassment? It may be time to seek legal assistance.

The consumer rights attorneys at the Holland Law Firm can help you understand and fight against unlawful debt collector harassment.

Don’t give up. Give us a call here to get started.

Note: Information from this post was adapted from the National Association of Consumer Advocates’ (NACA) “Consumers Ascending” series. The Holland Law Firm’s Peter Holland sits on the board of directors at NACA.