Debt Collection HarassmentDebt Collectors Must Treat You with Respect & Tell the Truth
Debt collectors cannot harass you. No matter whether you owe the debt or not, how much money you may owe, or how long the debt has gone unpaid, debt collectors must abstain from certain practices forbidden by Wisconsin state law. The consumer protection attorneys at Hawks Quindel can help you stop collection abuse and harassment, and possibly even make abusive collectors pay you for their unlawful actions.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the Wisconsin Consumer Act both protect Wisconsinites from unlawful collection techniques. The law offers substantial protections, but many require acting quickly. Being contacted by a debt collector can be frightening and cause anxiety, but you will put yourself and your family in the best position if you act quickly.
Debt collectors must treat you with respect.
They cannot threaten violence or arrest, yell at you, insult you, use obscene or abusive language, or subject you to any other form of abuse. They cannot call you early in the morning or late at night, they cannot call you repeatedly over a short period of time, and they cannot call you at all if they know you are represented by an attorney. They cannot call your friends, family, neighbors or employers about the debt, and they cannot call you at work if you’ve told them not to.
Debt collectors must tell the truth.
They cannot misrepresent the amount, character, or legal status of the debt. They cannot send you something that looks like an official document from a court or government agency, unless it is real. They cannot threaten garnishment of your wages or liens on your property before there has been a final judgment issued by a court. They cannot claim that you’ve committed a crime or that you will face arrest. Each and every time a collector contacts you, they must advise you that the communication is from a debt collector.
Common Questions about Debt Collection Harrassment Law
What types of debts are covered?
Consumer debts. Anyone who owes or is alleged to owe a consumer debt is covered. Consumer debts are those primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. They include debt from credit cards, car loans, student loans, payday lending, and more. Business debts, debts held by corporate entities, and debt related to child support, alimony, tort claims, and criminal fines are generally not protected.
What types of collectors are covered?
The FDCPA only covers third-party debt collectors – i.e., it does not include the original creditor that made the loan. However, the Wisconsin Consumer Act does cover original creditors.
What should I do if a collector is harassing me?
Keep track of all communications with this helpful form, which you should keep by the phone. Keep all written communication from collectors, including the envelopes (write the date the letter arrived on the envelope). If the collector has left an abusive voicemail, save and/or record it. Some states require two-party consent to record phone calls, but in Wisconsin, you can record calls with collectors without letting them know. Try your best not to get angry or be threatening on the phone; thorough notes will help you much more than allowing yourself to become upset.
What should I do if I dispute part or all of the debt?
This is where time is of the essence. Under the FDCPA, if you dispute any part of the debt you must send a written dispute within 30 days of receiving your first validation notice, which the collector must send you within 5 days of first contacting you. Your written dispute doesn’t need to be formal or long, just tell the collector you dispute the debt and want verification of the debt (use this sample letter to make it easy). Do this as soon as possible after your first communication with the debt collector; make a copy of the letter for your records. Next, go in person to a U.S. Post Office and send the written dispute via certified mail. Make sure to save both little green slips of paper – the one you get when you send the letter, as well as the one you get back in the mail with the recipient’s signature (take a picture with your phone).
If you think you may be experiencing illegal harassment from a debt collector, call Hawks Quindel’s Madison office at 608-257-0040 to speak with one of our consumer protection attorneys at no charge.