Creditor harassment and debt collection

When Minnesota residents deal with debt collectors, they are entitled to certain legal protections. Some people may assume that debt collectors routinely engage in harassment and threatening behavior. However, many of these behaviors are actually prohibited by law. The Federal Trade Commission uses the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to protect consumers from harassment by debt collectors. This Act applies to all kinds of debts, including credit card debt, medical payments and car loans. However, it does not apply to debts that are the result of operating a business.

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors are allowed to contact people about their outstanding, debts but they must avoid certain behaviors. For example, debt collectors are usually not allowed to contact people about their debts before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. They are also not allowed to call people at work if they have been told explicitly not to do so.

If a person sends a debt collector a letter indicating that they no longer wish to be contacted, the debt collector must stop all contact unless they are providing notice of an action like a lawsuit or if they are confirming that contact will stop. Debt collectors are not allowed to make threats, engage in harassment or use obscene language. They are also not allowed to threaten people with arrest or make false claims.

If someone is dealing with creditor harassment, legal action is possible. The person being harassed can report the harassment to the attorney general's office or contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In cases where debts are unmanageable, it might also be possible to file for bankruptcy, which may result in a stay of all collection activity.

Source: FTC, "Debt Collection", November 24, 2014

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