Keep Evidence When Creditors Harass You
Several federal consumer protection laws protect against creditor harassment. For instance, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act forbids a third party collector from calling after you have retained an attorney to represent you (to file bankruptcy, for instance). The Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibits auto-dialing telephone calls to a cell phone, unless you have previously given express consent. Of course, any creditor telephone contact to collect a debt violates the federal law after you file bankruptcy.
Regardless of what the law says, in many cases creditors and collectors continue to call. When a collector refuses to follow the law, it is time to begin building a case against the wrongdoer. Start by collecting evidence.
Start a File
Grab a file folder and start collecting evidence! It is your burden to prove that the collection agency has violated the law, and your word without any other evidence may not be sufficient to prevail at trial.
Mail or E-mail
Collection agencies are loath to send anything in writing that may be used against them. Even if the correspondence does not violate the law, it may be admissible during a harassment case to show a collection pattern or practice that will support your complaint. Print out any email and do not delete it from your account. Keep any mail correspondence along with the envelopes.
Write down the telephone number from each collection call. At the end of the month, highlight all calls from the violating collector on your telephone bill. In most cases the collector will use an autodialing system and calls will come from different numbers – sometimes from different area codes!
Voice recordings are outstanding evidence! Like written documents, collectors dislike leaving voice messages that may be incriminating. Keep and do not erase any voice message. Recording telephone calls may be a good choice, as long as you follow the law. In some states, notably California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington, both parties to the phone call must consent to the recording.
In most bankruptcy cases, simply directing the collector to contact your attorney will be enough to stop future telephone calls. However, if the calls persist, inform your attorney and document the harassment. The federal law permits recovery of damages, including attorney fees, for violations of federal law.