Being in debt is never an easy thing, but one of the most important things to remember about it is that your debt is never an excuse for you to be treated badly. This is true even when you are having trouble making payments on time. Stories about debt collector harassment abound on the internet and in print, but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau makes it clear what debt collectors can and cannot do when trying to get a payment on an overdue account.

What is debt collection harassment?

According to the CFPB, debt collector behavior that oppresses you, harasses you, or abuses you is not allowed. That means many things, but most importantly it means that threats and obscene language are never appropriate, and that debt collectors who do make use of them are violating your rights.

What are the common debt collection harassment techniques?

Many of the techniques that are most often used under those circumstances can be hard to identify as crossing the line at first. Others are more obvious. They include:

  • Phone calls that are just designed to annoy or harass you, serving no other purpose
  • Publishing lists of people who do not pay their debts
  • Threats, physical or otherwise
  • Misrepresenting themselves or refusing to identify themselves

If you have been the victim of any of these tactics, then you might have some legal recourse. In the meantime, though, it helps to have a few tactics on hand to try to shut down bad behavior.

What should you do if debt collectors harass you?

  1. Drop names. Mention your rights and the name of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Sometimes the harassment stops when they know you know.
  2. Get their number so you can use it to find out who is calling you.
  3. Order your credit report, because any debt collection companies contacting you should show up in the “inquiries” section.
  4. Research and document their practices. Once you know who you are dealing with, you will likely find their contact information and a host of complaints about their behavior.
  5. Record calls if you can, and use your research and that evidence to file a complaint with the FTC.

Last but definitely not least, contact an attorney for more advice about the steps you can take. This step can happen at any point after you have started receiving harassment, but you are more likely to find an attorney that can help you if you have documented the abuse fairly thoroughly. A good debt collection and bankruptcy lawyer can help you from there.