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Debt collectors often resort to coercion

There are more than 6,000 debt collection companies around the country, and they contacted about 70 million consumers about allegedly unpaid bills in 2016, according to a survey conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Debt collectors most often contact consumers in Florida and elswewhere regarding credit card or medical debt, and an alarming number of these calls involve coercion or threats according to the CFPB data.

Companies pursuing unpaid bills are generally not permitted to use tactics that abuse, harass or oppress, but one in four of the consumers polled by the CFPB said that they felt threatened during a debt collection call. Bill collectors only respected requests to cease making contact about 25 percent of the time, and more than half of the consumers surveyed said that they were contacted about debts they did not owe or were asked to pay an amount that did not match their records.

Debt collectors are required to not make calls at certain hours without prior consent, but this is another rule that the industry seems to routinely ignore. More than a third of the consumers polled said that they were contacted between 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. The data also suggests that debt collectors are extremely persistent. More than a third of the respondents reported being called about debts in collection four or more times each week, and 17 percent told researchers that they were contacted on at least eight occasions each week.

Harassment from debt collectors can make coping with an unmanageable financial situation even more difficult, but lawyers with experience in this area could explain how filing a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 personal bankruptcy places an automatic stay on collection efforts. Once creditors have been notified of a bankruptcy filing, they may no longer make contact by mail or phone about debts included in the Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 petition.

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