Debt Collection: Harassment & Notification
Harassment by Debt Collectors
State law prohibits debt collectors collecting or attempting to collect a consumer debt by using obscene or profane language (CC Section 1788.11(a)). Federal law states that a “debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person…” and also prohibits the use of obscene or profane language to the hearer or reader. (15 USC Section 1692d(2)). A collection agency or its employees must not threaten to do anything that it cannot legally do. It cannot damage your property or physically injure you or others (CC Section 1788.10).
An agency may only call between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. If these hours are inconvenient for you, you may ask the agency to contact you at other times. There is no law that specifically limits the number of calls an agency may make to you, but repeated calls over a short period, which may be annoying or harassing, are prohibited. If you prefer that the agency contact you only by mail, you may ask them to do that. We suggest that you make that request by certified mail and keep a copy for your records (15 USC Sections 1692c & 1692d; CC Section 1788.11(d) & (e)).
To further protect your privacy, collectors cannot use postcards when contacting others, and envelopes must not contain information showing that they have been sent by a collection agency (15 USC Sections 1692(b), 1692c(b) and 1692e; CC Section 1788.12; CCR Section 627(a)).
When contacting some one other than the person who owes the debt, the collector must give his or her name but not the name of the collection agency (unless specifically asked to give that). When contacting the person who owes the debt, the collector must give either his or her name, or the name of the collection agency.
A collector cannot pretend to be anyone except a collector and must tell the person who owes the debt that he or she is trying to collect the debt. Likewise, a collection agency cannot use any words or symbols in its notices to make the person who owes the debt think the notices are legal documents when they are not, or that they come from anyone other than a collection agency (15 USC Sections 1692b(1) and 1692(e); CC Sections 1788.11(c) and 1788.13; CCR Sections 627 and 628.5)