Debt collectors can be aggressive in their attempts to collect money. However, some of their tactics can be abusive and illegal.

Often, people who are struggling with debt may also be contending with bill collectors. Being contacted by creditors may be stressful and frightening, especially if the debt collectors are using harassing or abusive tactics. What some Tennessee residents may not realize is that many of the tactics that unscrupulous collectors employ are dishonest, unfair and illegal. It can help to understand one’s rights when dealing with collection agencies and creditors.

What are some of the illegal tactics debt collectors sometimes use?

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, most collection agencies understand the law and what they are not allowed to say to consumers. There are, however, those that will still attempt to intimidate or lie to debtors to collect money that is owed. They rely on the assumption that those who are facing serious financial challenges do not know their rights or will be too frightened to fight back.

A debt collector may begin by repeatedly calling or sending harassing emails and text messages. The debtor may also be contacted at work. Dishonest creditors may tell consumers that they are committing a crime by not paying their bills. Some use abusive language, such as swearing, yelling and belittling while on the phone. They may threaten physical harm if the debtor does not begin making payments or say they will seize assets such as the debtor’s home or car. They have also been known to falsely represent themselves as attorneys or law enforcement, and to say that paperwork which is sent to the debtor is legal paperwork when it is not, and vice versa.

Can I go to jail or have my wages garnished for not paying a debt?

Fortunately, there is no debtors’ prison anymore for those facing serious financial challenges. According to the Federal Trade Commission, debtors cannot be sent to jail for not paying their bills. It is not breaking the law to be unable to afford to make ends meet.

However, wage garnishment is a possibility in some instances. Creditors may have the right to pursue wage garnishment by legal means. It is a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, however, to deceive debtors by telling them untruthfully that their wages will be garnished. The abusive and intimidating practices listed above are also violations of this law.

What can I do to stop creditor harassment?

Debtors may stop the harassing phone calls and letters by sending a certified letter to each collection agency, as well as paying for a return receipt as proof that the creditor received the letter. The letter should request that communication stop. Creditors will be required to comply, although they may send a letter to inform the debtor that the letters will stop or that further action, such as legal action, is intended. Debtors may also report suspected abuse to the FTC.

Those who are dealing with bill collectors and overwhelming debt may benefit by speaking to an experienced Chattanooga bankruptcy attorney.

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