Your phone rings with another unknown number, and you answer, only to hear a debt collector on the other end for the millionth time this week. Frustrated, intimidated, and exhausted, you end the call wondering what you can do if a debt collector calls you over and over.
If you are among the 70 million Americans receiving repeated, harassing calls from debt collectors, understanding your rights under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and Federal Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) lawyer can help you put a stop to constant calls through formal requests and legal action.
Can a Debt Collector Call You Over and Over?
Without express written consent, a debt collector may only contact you seven times in a seven-day period. Furthermore, they may not contact you within seven days after discussing a particular debt.
If multiple debts are owed, these rules apply for each debt, except for student loans. In this scenario, all individual student loan debts are considered one, and the debt collector can only contact you seven times total in a seven-day period.
Why Is a Debt Collector Calling Over and Over?
To harass you into paying a debt.
Unfortunately, the most common reason that a debt collector calls you over and over is to intimidate or harass you into paying a debt. Studies show that the relationship between debt and depression is a strong one, and constant calls from debt collectors only add to the stress. With consumers worn down mentally and emotionally, they may be more likely to pay a debt to stop the calls.
To catch you off guard.
Debt collectors are known for using deceptive tactics to get you to answer the phone. They may use fake numbers or even pretend to be someone else in order to get you on the line. They hope to catch you off guard by consistently calling and potentially coercing you into paying a debt without fully understanding the details.
To collect a stale debt.
Debts existing past the statute of limitations are considered stale and more challenging to collect, but that doesn’t stop debt collectors from trying. By constantly calling you, they hope to restart the statute of limitations and make it easier for them to collect the debt.
To make the most of your prior consent.
Debt collectors have a short window to act on your consent to call, seven days to be exact. If you have given them your number to contact you, they may take full advantage, exercising their right to contact you more than what’s legally allowed in the seven-day timeframe.
To take advantage of loopholes in the law.
Some debt collectors may use loopholes in the law to call you continuously. For example, limited content messages containing minimal information about the creditor may allow debt collectors to contact you more frequently.
To find the person who actually owes the debt.
When a debt collector doesn’t have your contact information, they have more leeway in contacting individuals to find the person who actually owes the debt. By constantly calling you, they hope to get a hold of someone who can provide them with more information and lead them to the actual debtor.
Understanding Your Rights Under The FDCPA and TCPA
You have the right to request that a debt collector stop contacting you.
Under the FDCPA, you can request that a debt collector stop calling you repeatedly, even altogether, if you choose. You can make this request in writing, and once received, the debt collector must stop contacting you except to confirm receipt of your request or to inform you of court actions being taken.
To file this request, you’ll need to:
- Send a certified letter to the debt collector, keeping a copy for your records.
- Clearly state that you request they stop calling and provide your contact information.
- Request confirmation of receipt of your request.
- Keep a record of all communication with the debt collector, including the date and time you sent the request and any further interactions.
If the calls continue from the collector or a third party, contacting an experienced TCPA attorney can help you navigate your rights and determine if you have a case against the debt collector.
You have the right to limit call time and place.
Under the TCPA, debt collectors cannot call you before 8 am or after 9 pm local time. If calls continue outside these hours, it could violate the law, and you may have grounds for legal action.
In addition to times of the day, there are limitations as to where debt collectors can contact you, including:
- Your place of work, if your employer does not allow personal calls during work hours.
- Any location where you have already informed the debt collector that you do not wish to be contacted.
- Any location where it would be considered inconvenient or potentially unsafe, such as a hospital room.
As with all FDCPA regulations, complex legal language leads many to waive their rights accidentally. Consulting with a knowledgeable consumer law attorney the moment you receive multiple calls from a debt collector can help you better understand your rights and take the necessary steps to stop and sue for illegal calls.
You have the right to facilitate contact through an attorney.
Once you have hired an attorney, debt collectors are legally required to stop contacting you directly and instead communicate through your attorney. This action limits the amount of contact you receive and ensures that a legal professional properly documents and handles all communication.
To formally request this method of communication, you’ll need to:
- Provide written notice to the debt collector that all communication should be directed through your attorney.
- Include your attorney’s contact information in the letter.
- Keep a copy of this letter for your records.
While it may seem intimidating to go up against a debt collector, having an experienced TCPA attorney handling communications will help you understand and assert your rights for an end to unending debt collector calls.
Are There Exemptions to TCPA and FDCPA Rules?
While half of the 250,000 annual FDCPA complaints the Federal Trade Commission receives concern repetitive call violations, not all will merit a lawsuit.
Call frequency rules may not apply to debt collectors if:
- You explicitly permit them to call you more frequently
- The calls are considered limited content.
- The calls are court-ordered
- The calls do not connect to the dialed number
- The call is a response from the debtor
- The call is to a permitted third party (i.e., attorney, Consumer Reporting Agency, creditor)
The specifics of each scenario are laid out in the TCPA and FDCPA, so if you believe your rights may have been violated, it’s best to consult an attorney who can help you navigate the complexities of these laws.
Multiple Debt Collector Calls and the Do Not Call List: What You Need To Know
The Do Not Call List has saved millions of Americans from intrusive telemarketing calls. Many think they are protected from debt collector calls because they are on the DNC list. This, however, is not the case.
According to the FTC, debt collectors and telemarketers are separate entities with different rules governing their practices. While telemarketers are not permitted to call individuals on the DNC list, debt collectors can legally contact anyone if they do not violate FDCPA or TCPA regulations.
Unfortunately, by answering the phone, having a conversation about the debt, and informing the collector of your status on the DNC list, you may have accidentally given them a license to call you more frequently. For this reason, it’s always best to write a cease and desist letter to exempt organizations so that you avoid repeated, potentially harassing calls from telemarketers and debt collectors alike.
Can You Sue if a Debt Collector Calls You Over And Over?
Yes, you have the right to sue a debt collector if they repeatedly call you in violation of FDCPA and TCPA regulations. If you prove that the calls were made intentionally or without your consent, you may be entitled to compensation for damages, including emotional distress.
Legal action when a debt collector calls you over and over is usually through a class-action lawsuit. These suits use the collective power of multiple complaints to make a stronger case, increasing the chances of a favorable verdict and financial compensation.
To join in on a class action FDCPA lawsuit, consumers will need to:
- Keep detailed records of all communication with the debt collector, including dates and times of calls and any voicemails or messages left.
- Provide proof of requests to limit or cease communication.
- Document any emotional distress caused by the repeated calls.
- Opt in and join the class action suit by contacting the attorney in charge of the case.
If your claim is taken into the class action lawsuit, you may be entitled to a portion of the settlement reached or awarded by the court.
The FTC has clear penalties for those found in violation of TCPA and FDCPA laws, with fines set at:
- $500 per violation of the TCPA
- $1,500 per call for knowingly and willfully violating the TCPA
- $1000 per FDCPA violation (based on case, not violations)
- $500,000 or 1 percent of collector’s worth (whichever is less)
- Appropriate legal fees for plaintiffs
The total award for these types of class action lawsuits can vary depending on the number of plaintiffs involved and the severity of the violations. For example, if consumers can show debt collectors calling over and over while also proving threatening behavior, misleading statements, and unethical collection practices, they may be entitled to additional compensation beyond the initial settlement.
Ultimately, an experienced consumer rights lawyer can help you navigate your rights and options when dealing with unwanted calls from debt collectors.
Whether it’s requesting all communication go through an attorney, joining a class action lawsuit, or pursuing individual legal action, comprehensive legal representation will be your strongest weapon in fighting back against unending, intrusive debt collector calls.
Make Neverending Debt Collector Calls Finally Stop
Being in debt isn’t a reason for debt collectors to harass you with never-ending phone calls. With a firm understanding of your rights and the tools and resources available, you can regain control of your financial situation and stop debt collectors from calling repeatedly.
Don’t hesitate to consult an experienced consumer protection attorney who can help you navigate your way to a fair resolution and better peace of mind.