Don’t take collector harassment lying down! Learn how to fight back.
Consumer rights are protected by the federal government. When a collector crosses the line and hits you with abusive or threaten collection tactics, they violate your rights. And you have the right to fight back. The first step is usually to file a formal complaint with a government agency. In most cases, that agency is the CFPB.
FTC vs CFPB
Prior to 2009, the Federal Trade Commission was the sole government agency in charge of handling consumer complaints, including those about abusive debt collection practices. However, after the financial crash in 2009 that led to the Great Recession, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act created a new government agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This agency is now in charge of all consumer complaints related to debt collection.
So now, if you try to file a debt collection complaint through the FTC’s consumer complaint portal online, it will simply tell you to get in touch with the CFPB. In fact, most complaints related to any financial service go through the CFPB. This includes everything unfair billing practices by your mortgage lender to misleading advertising by a credit card company.
Other types of non-financial complaints still go through the FTC. This includes complaints about telemarketing and non-financial services, such as internet providers.
How to file a debt collection complaint
Debt collection complaints can be filed through the CFPB’s website: consumerfinance.gov.
- Before you file your complaint, make sure to gather as much information as possible.
- Gather everything you have about the debt, if it’s a debt you actually owe
- If it’s not a debt you owe, at least gather all correspondence you have received about the debt
- If you’ve been receiving calls, it’s good to have dates, times and names of representatives that you spoke with, along with what was said
- Go to the complaint portal of the CFPB website at www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/
- Hit the “Start your complaint” button and follow the five steps to submit your complaint
The CFPB even warns to have all the documentation that you need ready, because you can’t submit the same complaint twice. So, you want to make sure that you give them everything possible to accept your complaint. You submit any documentation you have through the website.
Once they receive your complaint and accept it, they contact the debt collector and start working to mediate a resolution. With debt collection the end result is often that the company simply agrees to stop contacting you. But the CFPB won’t help you sue the company or take any legal action. At most, if they receive a high volume of complaints about the same company, they may take action to fine them or close them down.
Suing a debt collector
If you are the victim of repeated, extended harassment by a debt collector that simply won’t leave you alone, you have a right to sue them in civil court. Collector harassment lawsuits involve showing that the collector knowingly and repeatedly violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. You have more of a case if you can show that this negatively impacted your life. For instance, if you lost your job as the result of the harassment. In this case, the courts may award damages, which means you could receive compensation for harassment.
Addressing debt is often the easiest way to make a collector go away
This is, of course, assuming that you actually owe the debt. Collectors often target the wrong person – they may have a similar name to you or be a relative. If a collector gets it wrong and you don’t owe the debt, go straight to a cease and desist. If they take you to court, simply answer the summons to explain that you do not owe the debt. After that, the matter will be closed.
On the other hand, if you legitimately owe a collector, then the easiest and often fastest way to get rid of them is to take care of the debt. Contact a debt settlement company and tell them you need their help to negotiate a debt that’s already with a collector. This will get you the lowest settlement amount possible, so you can get out of debt for the least amount of money and finally get the collector off your back.