When filing for bankruptcy, the last thing you want is any source of additional stress. Unfortunately, in many cases, this can be caused by continued harassment from creditors still looking for repayment.
According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), this repeated contact may be in violation of your rights during the bankruptcy process. Continue below to see what forms of contact violate the FDCPA and how you can prove harassment with evidence in court.
The FDCPA and Creditor Violations
People who file for bankruptcy are officially and legally released from responsibility for their debts. This is ensured by an “automatic stay”, which protects all bankruptcy applicants from repeated contact from collections agents.
If these agents refuse to stop contacting you during your automatic stay, then it is likely they are in violation of both your automatic stay and the FDCPA.
While there are a few exceptions to this rule (certain forms of child support, eviction notices, or criminal cases), there are many ways in which creditor contact can be illegal. Examples include:
- repeated contact by phone or email after filing for bankruptcy
- calls that don’t identify the caller as a debt collector
- contact at unreasonable hours of the day (before 8AM or after 9PM)
- falsifying information or claiming you owe more money than you actually do
- lying about information regarding your bankruptcy or their knowledge of your bankruptcy
- sending you “official” or “legal” paperwork
- asking for unauthorized fees or charges despite your bankruptcy status
- threatening court, jail time, or violence if you do not comply
- contacting anyone besides yourself (family members, credit companies, etc.) regarding your debt
If any of these examples sounds familiar to you, then it is likely that you have the right to take legal action against the collection company(s) harassing you.
Before anything else, the best course of action is to call the debt collection agency directly. As a precaution, try to record the phone conversation if possible so it can be used as evidence later on if necessary. Alert the debt collection agency of your bankruptcy status and (if they’re smart) they will cease all contact with you regarding your debts.
If you continue receiving contact from creditors after this call, then it is best to start compiling evidence for your case. This is to help prove to the bankruptcy court that the collectors are in violation of the FDCPA. Evidence may include:
- phone records showing the date and time of each attempted contact
- voice mails of creditors asking for funds, not stating themselves as collectors, or threatening to take illegal action
- email transcripts from creditors following your bankruptcy filing date
- letters sent from the creditor, especially those claiming to be “official” payment requests or from agencies other than a collection agency
- bank statements showing any fees withdrawn without your consent
- text messages from collection agents or “automated alerts” reminding you to repay your debt
- research proving the creditor’s use of false claims or a false operating name
- any other evidence demonstrating a creditor’s unlawful actions
If this evidence is sufficient, then the bankruptcy court will be able to take action against the collection agency in the form of sanctions, fines, suspensions, or damages fees.
Especially when filing for bankruptcy, the thought of further legal paperwork and court actions can be a large source of stress. To minimize this, consider speaking with an FDCPA attorney about your case.
Their knowledge of the legalities of debt collection can help you to compile evidence, file paperwork, and represent your case in court. Best of all, you don’t even need to pay them if they take your case — all attorney fees are collected from the creditors being sued.
Before taking legal action, consider a free consultation with an FDCPA attorney near you.