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How can I deal with creditor harassment?

If you find yourself the target of a collection agency, you are likely getting a barrage of phone calls and other communications from the agency trying to collect on the debt. Even if you are behind on payments, that does not mean you have to accept the harassing treatment you are receiving. As a consumer, you have legal protections against unscrupulous debt collectors, and you need to assert your rights to end the harassment and hold the violators accountable.

Prohibited practices

The first thing you must understand is what debt collectors cannot do when contacting you about an outstanding debt. Both the Texas state government and the federal government have laws in place that prohibit certain practices from debt collection agencies. Debt collectors may not use threatening, obscene or insulting language when dealing with you. They also cannot threaten to sue or arrest you for your outstanding debt without a proper court order. Debt collectors must provide their true identity and must not misrepresent themselves or the amount of debt they say you owe. The collection agency should be bonded by the state and should be able to provide proof that they are a legitimate entity.

Provide written notice

One of the first things you can do if you are receiving harassing communications from collection agencies is to request in writing that the agency no longer contact you. In your letter, you should provide all the pertinent information regarding the debt in question, including your full name and address, the account number associated with the debt and the identity of the original lender. This is also important if you wish to dispute the debt because you have already paid it off or the debt is an error.

You should make a copy of your letter and retain that copy for your files. You should then send the original letter to the debt collector through certified mail with a return receipt. This way, you will have proof that the debt collector received your letter. The collection agency should stop all communications after receiving the letter, only contacting you once more to state that they had received your request.

Legal options

If the collection agency continues harassing you about the debt, you may have to resort to legal options. Under the Texas Finance Code, debt collectors who violate the law may face both criminal and civil penalties. Each violation is considered a misdemeanor, and the agency could face fines ranging from between $100 to $500 for each violation. Additionally, you may also file a civil suit against the collector. You can sue violators to receive injunctive relief that will put an end to the harassment. You may also sue for damages you incurred as a result of the violation. Along with attorney fees, you may receive no less than $100 for each violation if your claim is successful. Typically, you will have to contact the attorney general's office to report the violations.

Consult an attorney

Dealing with harassing and abusive debt collectors can be unnerving and even frightening. However, having an experienced attorney on your side can help. For one, having an attorney means that the collection agency will have to deal with your lawyer directly instead of you. Additionally, an attorney will know the steps to take to end the harassment and hold the violating agency accountable for its actions.

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