If you have ever felt intimidated by the collector on the other end of the phone line about a past due debt, you are not alone. According to a first-ever national survey by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, one-in-four consumers have felt threatened by debt collectors. When 40 percent of the consumers requested to not be contacted any longer, three-in-four advise their requests were not honored.


CFPB Director Richard Cordray stated, “The Bureau is working to clean up abuses in this industry, and to see that all consumers are treated with fairness, decency, and respect.” Creditors and especially third-party collectors typically are known for using threats. Some of their practices are unlawful, and that is why the bureau is cracking down on them.


It is advisable that all consumers pay their debts. We all should strive to ensure we have paid any outstanding debt we owe. If payment arrangements are possible, then it is wise to make them and keep them. It is better to tackle a legitimate debt with an arrangement to pay than to endure persistent harassing phone calls.


Debt collectors can be intimidating, but don’t let them scare you.

However, there are times when the will to alleviate the debt is there, but the funds are not. This does not make you a bad person; it just makes you a person who has more bills than money, like so many other consumers. When collectors are understanding of your particular situation, they are easier to deal with. However, some are disrespectful, rude, and condescending. They make it very difficult to try to come to an agreement regarding what you should do about the debt.


These kinds of collectors can cause the situation to escalate, and an argument can ensue if you are caught at the wrong time. They may call at odd hours demanding personal information from you. They may threaten to garnish your wages or call your family members and friends. You may unwittingly fall into their trap of becoming upset and losing your composure.


It is good to remember that they are only using scare tactics to try to get you to do something. While these tactics may be unnerving, they should not be a concern.


They are not allowed to make good on the threat of having you arrested or garnishing your wages without first following certain procedures themselves. In order to get a garnishment order, they have to first file a judgment against you, which takes several months to complete.


They cannot arrest you just because you are behind on a payment. Debt collection is civil and not criminal, so the police would not be involved. There are instances where a judge could order jail time, but these reasons are very limited and can usually be avoided with an arrangement to pay.  


The Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act gives a wealth of advice for consumers who are dealing with harassing debt collection calls. It is important to know your rights as a consumer. It is not advisable to threaten these collection companies back as that would just be going down to their level. It is best to simply pay off the debt owed, but refuse to be intimidated or disrespected.


Have you had to deal with rude, harassing collector calls? How did you handle it? Let’s discuss here or on Twitter: @lcarterwriter.