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While many business follow the law and attempt to collect debts in an ethical manner, some unscrupulous collectors attempt to skirt the law in an attempt to gain an unfair advantage and to prey upon those who do not know what their rights and options are.
Whether you owe the debt or not you have the right to not be verbally abused, harassed, or threatened with actions that the collector cannot legally take. Bankruptcy is not your only alternative.
f you are receiving threatening phone calls or emails do not be afraid. Often, unscrupulous debt collectors are making threats that they cannot legally keep. In the event of creditor harassment I advise you to contact me or another qualified consumer attorney as soon as possible. I also advise you to document as much as possible. Keep a call log of all incoming calls including the name of the creditor, his employer, the original creditor, the account number, the balance, and any comments by the collector. The more information I have, the better I can advise you. A sample call log is available under the FORMS and RESOURCES section of my website. Also, I have seen cases where the harassment stops once the bill collector is put on the spot with pointed questions about the account. Remember, it is your money, and if someone else wants it they better be able to give you a good reason why they should have it. Also, save all written correspondence.
Things like profanity, name calling, verbal abuse, publication of your alleged debt, threats of violence, and threats have you charged criminally are generally prohibited.
If someone is calling threatening you with a lawsuit, especially if they are threatening to serve you, put them on the spot. Ask the the collector for things like the Case Number, the Court the case is filed in, or who the Attorney handling the case is. If they cannot give you valid answers I would be very hesitant to give them money. Furthermore, service of process is done either by sworn Peace Officers of the Constables Office, or by Independent Private Process Servers who are Licensed by the State. Neither of those are under the employment or direct control of an attorney or especially not a collection agency. In other words, if someone is trying to tell you that you are going to be served at a certain time or place that threat is frequently false. Furthermore, a judgment only occurs upon successful prosecution of the civil case (which can occur by default). They cannot just "put a judgment on you," without following the proper steps of prosecuting a civil case.
NEVER, EVER give out a credit card number or banking information over the phone. Do not do business with any agency that will not do business by mail. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, also known as the FDCPA, requires any third party debt collector to send a written verification of the debt within 5 days of the first phone call. Do not be shy about asking them to resend that document.
Texas law requires that all third party debt collectors carry a bond with the Secretary of State. If they do not have one they may very well be collecting illegally. A link to the Secretary of State’s website is available in the FORMS and RESOURCES page.
Rarely, if ever is it a criminal matter if a debt is not paid. Furthermore, under the FDCPA creditors are not to call you before 8 a.m., or after 9 p.m., or at your place of employment once you have placed them on notice that your employer does not permit you to take such calls.
Bankruptcy is not your only alternative. There are a number of State and Federal Laws designed to protect the individual consumers from harassment by creditors. Consider this, if an unscrupulous bill collector is violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act there is no guarantee that they will respect the automatic stay or the discharge of your debt that bankruptcy may grant.
In addition, if someone is claiming to be an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas you may look them up on the State Bar’s website. A link is available under the FORMS and RESOURCES tab.