Sometimes people fall behind on their bills. Regardless of the reason or circumstances surrounding it, receiving a communication from a debt collector can produce feelings of dread for many people. While collection agencies are allowed to contact consumers regarding their debt, both the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and the North Carolina Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibit them from engaging in certain abusive behaviors.
According the North Carolina General Assembly, debt collectors may not threaten or coerce customers. Examples of this type of behavior include:
- Threatening violence or any other illegal action which would harm a person.
- Accusing a person of fraud or of committing a crime.
- Making false accusations against a person.
- Telling someone that they may be arrested for not paying their debts.
- Representing that nonpayment may result in wage garnishment or property seizure.
Debt collectors are also barred from harassing consumers. They cannot use profane language or call outside of certain hours of the day. They are also barred from misrepresenting themselves by saying they are an attorney or law enforcement officer.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau encourages consumers to report any threatening or harassing behavior on the part of debt collectors. It also recommends keeping records of any interactions with the debt collection agency and submitting a request in writing setting forth how and when contact is acceptable. Citizens are also able to sue a debt collector if it violates the FDCPA. If the lawsuite is successful, the debt collector may find themselves on the hook for paying the person's attorney fees and possibly even damages.