Debt harassment is an illegal aspect of debt collection that has been specifically outlawed in the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The specific restrictions placed on third party collection agencies are specific and clear, and every person who is in serious financial trouble should understand their rights. They may require the help of an attorney to pursue those rights if a debt collection agency will not comply with the regulations, but in the worst case, the debtor may file a lawsuit against the collection agency for harassment and obtain compensation from the company.
There are a number of entities that may be involved in attempting to collect payments from past due debtors. Some will be able to keep any amount they collect, while others will only retain a percentage of that amount.
Of these types of collection agencies, the only ones subject to the FDCPA are the third party agencies. They are subject to a list of restrictions that include the prohibition to:
The debtor has the right to document any abuses that a collection agency uses and, if they continue, file a complaint with the national FTC, the local body that has oversight of the collection agencies, the original creditor, and the collection agency.
If that does not stop the harassment, the debtor has the right to file a lawsuit against the collection agency. If they have a valid case, they may win direct damages for such costs as therapy for anxiety or stress caused by the harassment and the cost of changing their phone number. They will also collect statutory damages of $1,000 and attorney's fees, court costs, and other fees.
The problem with filing a FDCPA lawsuit is that, if it is lost, the plaintiff will be required to pay all court costs and attorney's fees, which can only add to their debt problems. In order to ensure a solid case, they should contact a consumer rights attorney who has experience with FDCPA lawsuits and can not only advise them concerning whether or not to file the suit, but how best to pursue it.