Short answer: Anything a collector does that isn't nice
Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men said it best, "You have to ask me nicely!" Collectors may contact you to collect but they must do it nicely. If they do anything that is not nice then it is probably technically a violation of the law.
We have great laws in our country that protect us from any debt collection conduct that is harassing or abusive. The good news is there is no definition for what is considered harassing. What is “harassing" is left up to a jury.
I used the term “collection harassment” almost 20 years ago, and while nobody can prove who used the term first, the smart money is on me. Collection harassment comes in all shapes and sizes, from falsely reporting a debt on your credit, to calling you at work, to robodialing your cell phone 22 times a day.
The most common way for collectors to harass you is using a "robodialer" aka autodialer. Banks and debt collectors have the ability to call 10 million people a day for only 1 penny using a robo-dialer! They live to harass people and they love that they have the technology to do so. These big banks, credit card companies, department stores and debt collectors who I refer to as "robo-bullies" for brevity’s sake are the #1 consumer complaint in America today. It is so easy to plug a person’s number into their “robocalling campaign” and hit “blast” which commonly results in calling people 10 to 20 times a day and more. They don’t need to waste time on the phone arguing with people when they can just harass you by calling you every hour automatically. I like to refer to this practice as "automated harassment.” This has the effect of people becoming so overwhelmed with the amount of calls they are receiving or the embarrassment factor of getting so many calls that they just pay to stop the harassment.
Some robo-bullies say calling somebody 10 or 20 times a day really isn’t harassment but I have yet to meet one that is willing to say that to a jury. Collectors also like to make statements like “we were just trying to help our client,” this is another ridiculous defense position that is easy to say while negotiating but again, would not play so well in front of a jury.
Top 10 Collection Harassment techniques:
- Repeated calls using automated systems (aka Robodialer-99.99% of collectors use these)
- Repeated pre-recorded messages
- Calling at work, or to third parties such as neighbors or friends
- Falsely reporting a debt on your credit report
- Sending letters that are misleading
- Sending letters to family members
- Threatening to file a lawsuit when there is no intention to do so
- Being rude or abusive on the phone
- Collecting money not owed
- Pressuring payment when you can’t afford it
I imagine there are some nice debt collectors out there, I just haven't met them. The collectors that I have interviewed and deposed are not people I’d be inviting to a party. And there is a built-in reason; they are so nasty and harass people. They get paid a percentage of the amount of money they collect, and “harassment" works and makes people pay money. Since hardly anybody sues them there is no reason, in their mind and according to their collection model, to stop.
It’s time for us to rise up as a country and fight back against these bullies. Call your local news station and tell them what is going on, they love good stories about bad actors, and find a good lawyer that makes a living suing those that harass our families and friends.