FAQ About Debt Collector Harassment Which Violates The FDCPA

Is A Debt Collector Harassing You Illegally? 

Find Out What Your Rights Are So You Can Take Action Against Abusive Debt Collectors!

FDCPA can help you fight against debt collectors

We realize that dealing with debt collectors can be intimidating.  Not just because abusive collectors are intimidating but also because you may not fully understand your rights and what collectors can, and cannot, do in collecting a debt from you.

We have laid out some typical questions that we are asked by Alabama consumers who want to know more about their rights.  We hope this is helpful to you also.


Q.        How much does it cost to talk to you about my situation where I think I’m being harassed by a debt collector?

A.        Nothing.  We always are happy to talk and meet with you to go over your particular situation so that we can help you understand what your options and choices are in dealing with debt collectors.


Q.        I’m pretty sure I owe the money that the collector says I owe.  Am I out of luck?  Can’t the debt collector do whatever it wants since I owe the money?

A.        It doesn’t matter if you owe the money – the debt collector must still follow the law and cannot harass you.  Saying to a federal judge, “Yes we abused him or her but they owed the money” is not effective at all!


Q. I’ve heard about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”). Does it apply in my situation?

A. The FDCPA applies when four things are present:

  1. You are a consumer;
  2. The debt is a consumer debt (personal, household, family – not business),
  3. The collector is a “debt collector”, and
  4. There is a violation of the FDCPA.

Q. Let me make sure I understand. What is a “consumer”?

A. A consumer is an individual. The easiest way to think about it is this way – a corporation or partnership is not a consumer. A person is a consumer.

Q. What is a “consumer debt”?

A. This means a debt that is not a business debt. It could be a car loan, a home loan, a credit card, a medical bill, etc. Basically it is accurate to say anything that is not a business loan or debt probably is a consumer debt.

Q. I’m not sure if the company calling me is a “debt collector” – how do I know?

A. A “debt collector” under the FDCPA is a company that is not the original creditor. It is not the hospital. It is not the credit card company. It is not the car finance company. It is a company, sometimes called a “third party” collector, that has been hired by the original creditor or someone else to collect the debt. It also includes “debt buyers” – companies that buy up debt that is in default and then they either collect it or send it out to collection agencies.

Basically the test is when this company first “touched” the debt, was the debt current or in default?  If current, then the company will not be a debt collector.  But if the debt was in default, then the company likely is a debt collector under the FDCPA.


Q. OK. I’m a consumer and I’m dealing with an old credit card debt. It is a collection agency calling me and my neighbors. How do I know if this violates the FDCPA?

A. The FDCPA has a lot of parts to it but we can summarize it this way. If a debt collector acts towards you in any one of the following ways, it is normally a violation of the FDCPA:

  1. Unfair conduct towards you,
  2. Untrue statements made to you, and
  3. Treating you in an undignified manner or not treating you with respect.

Q. What are some examples of violations of the FDCPA?

A. There are so many different examples. We’ll just touch on a few.

  1. Unfair conductCalling your neighbors to embarrass you (known as a “block party”). Calling your co-workers (called an “office party”).  Suing you on a debt that you do not owe. Putting false information on your credit reports.  It is also unfair to leave you voice mail messages on your cell phone, work phone or home phone that are harassing or do not contain the required warnings.  To be clear — most voice mail messages violate the FDCPA.
  2. Untrue statements – Lying to you about whether you owe the money. For example debt collectors often say if you are married or were married you owe your spouse’s debts, even if you were not on them. Telling you that you will go to jail unless you pay for the old credit card debt.  Lying to you about suing you when the collector cannot or will not sue.  We see lots of lies regarding student loans, as student loan collectors love to lie about garnishing your wages.  False information on your credit reports is not only unfair but is a lie.
  3. Treating you in an undignified way or without respect – using profanity with you. Insulting you. Calling you repeatedly to harass you. Yelling at you.


Q. OK – the FDCPA covers my situation. How does the FDCPA help me?

A. The FDCPA provides four wonderful benefits:

  1. Free lawyer paid for by the defendant debt collector
  2. Costs and expenses of litigation are paid for by defendant debt collector
  3. $1,000 in statutory damages if you have no actual damages
  4. Actual damages (including emotional distress) if you have been harmed by the harassing debt collector.

Q. How do I get a free lawyer paid for by the debt collector?

A. If we are successful in your case and settle the case, our fee comes from the settlement amount that is paid by the debt collector. If we try the case, the court can award attorney’s fees and make the defendant debt collector pay it.

Q. What about the costs and expenses of litigation? I always heard it was expensive to file a lawsuit.

A. The defendant debt collector can also be required to pay the costs and expenses of the litigation. We advance that money anyway – if we are not successful we do not get it back. If we are successful, then we get reimbursed that money out of the settlement or the judgment that the defendant debt collector pays.


Q.  What is the TCPA and why should I care about it?

A.  The TCPA protects you against collection calls to your cell phone — it is very powerful law that collectors hate.

Q.  How and when does the TCPA protect me from collection calls to my cell phone?

A.  The TCPA prevents auto dialed calls (computer dialed calls) to your cell phone unless you gave the collector or the original creditor permission to call your cell phone.  It also prevents “pre-recorded” messages – these are messages that are not being left live but instead were previously recorded or they are computer generated voices.

Q.  What if I may have given permission for these guys to call my cell phone?  What can I do?

A.  Revoke the permission.  Revoke the consent.  Tell the collector in writing (best practice) that you are taking away any permission that you may have given for the collector to call your cell phone.


Q.  OK – what does the TCPA give to me?

A.  Some wonderful tools to stop abusive collectors.  You get the following:


Q.  What do I do if I am getting collection calls or letters right now from a bill collector?

A.  Make sure you document the calls coming in by using our collection log or something similar.  Also, we do not advise recording calls (its ok to record voicemails) as this can lead to you being prosecuted in other states.  We don’t agree with this but its a possibility now that we think should be avoided.  Simply take very detailed, thorough notes, and you will be in the good position of having documented the call.

Q. OK, I want to discuss this with you. What do I do?

A. It’s simple. Call us at 205-879-2447 or 205-714-4443 or you can also fill out our “contact us” form.

Contact us today as there are time limits that apply and the sooner you contact us, the sooner we can start the process of helping you to not have to deal with illegal harassing conduct.

-John G. Watts



  1. […] if the collector does treat you poorly or is dishonest with you or otherwise breaks the law (see our FAQ on the FDCPA) then you should consider suing the collector.  If people do not defend themselves against these […]

  2. My family has recently been transferred to a debt collector so far for only 300 dollars. Both of my parents are unemployed and my mom is very sick so the medical bill are piling up. Can they legally take away our car or our house? What if we fall more in debt?

    • John Watts says:

      A debt collector can collect on any amount — even smaller amounts like $300. At least in Alabama your car and house cannot be taken away unless you are sued and then the company gets a judgment against you.

      It is technically possible to have a “sheriff’s sale” of your house or car but I can’t imagine that would happen for $300.

      Make sure you talk to the debt collector in the right way and normally it is a good idea to dispute the debt in writing.

      If you are in Alabama feel free to call my office at 205-879-2447 and someone here can chat with you to get more details.

      Best wishes

      John Watts

  3. zizou garcia says:

    Hi I had got a call from a debt collector where the agent failed to tell his last name. Can I file a lawsuit for that and will I get any benefit by doing that? Thanks.

    • John Watts says:

      If that is the only thing the collector did wrong then I would not file that lawsuit. Others may say it violates the FDCPA but I don’t think that is a proper suit to bring. Now maybe other things happened or the agent became abusive when you asked for his last name, etc. but simply refusing to tell you his last name is not something that I as a lawyer would file suit over.

      Thanks for your question and if there are more details feel free to reach out to us and we’ll be glad to chat with you.

      John Watts

  4. kathy Cruthirds says:

    I have a collector calling my mom and dad’s house. I call them back and all they will tell me is that they are an investigator and that hsbc is going to prosecute me for fraud. This is concerning a credit card debt that I defaulted on in 2010. I am unable to pay it. They will not tell me the name of the business they represent, they will not give me a mailing address. The last call they made to me they asked if I had guns or dogs at my house because they were sending a uniformed police officer to serve me. How can I send them a dispute letter if they will not give me the name of the business nor the mailing address?
    Thank you

    • John Watts says:


      This sounds like a frustrating experience of dealing with scam debt collectors. Not talking about debt collectors that break the law — most companies do this — but a company that is “off the grid” and a complete scam.

      The most common features are:

      **Threats of arrest (almost never legitimate)
      **Refusal to give you their name or they give you a vague threatening name
      **Refusal to give you their address

      Here’s my suggestions:
      **Call them and tell them you want to make sure they are not a fraud and a scam and to do this you need them to send you a real letter through the mail (not fax and not email). [They almost always refuse to do this].

      **When they say they are having you arrested ask through which police department, sheriff’s department, or district attorney as you want to call that place to see what this is about. [They will almost certainly refuse].

      **Pull your credit reports through http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com and let’s see if anyone is on there claiming to own or collect on this HSBC debt. May help you identify the company calling you.

      I’m assuming you live in Alabama — if not then ignore the above as I don’t know what your laws are in your state. But if you are in Alabama you are welcome to contact us after you pull your credit reports and after you talk to these guys and we will help you figure out where you are in this process and to help you discover the next steps to take.

      Best wishes and sorry you are dealing with places like this one.

      John Watts

  5. terena taylor says:

    I owe a personal loan with collateral, I have went in twice to talk to them and they wanted me to pay a renewal fee. I told them I wanted to make payment arrangements and they refused. Now they are calling making threats and telling me to be an adult, They have come to my house when I was not home and threatened my 16 yr old son, Told him they were coming out the next day to take his ps3 game system. Then they came and we didn’t answer the door and they went from window to window beating and yelling my name and went across the street talking to my neighbor about the loan, Now they are calling my landlord 4 to 5 times aday and leaving messages on her machine for her to tell me if I don’t pay they are coming after my collateral, I wrote them a letter asking them to stop calling my landlord and neighbor but they haven’t stopped and I don’t know what to do, HELP !!!!

    • John Watts says:


      I assume the one threatening you is the loan company?

      It sounds like they have crossed the line of what Alabama law allows — if it is the original creditor (the one who loaned you the money) then the FDCPA does not apply. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act only applies to debt collectors.

      If you live in Alabama give us a call at 205-879-2447 and we’ll be glad to talk with you about your options.

      John Watt

  6. terena taylor says:

    I forgot to mention I live on a fixed income (disability) and I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks which has made me afraid to even walk out my door without fear.

  7. Kim says:

    Both my spouse and I were in the military when got furniture from USA discounters. Not knowing the company filed for bankruptcy and was investigated and closed down for reaping off soldiers. My husband got out of military because of our several my disabilied son which left all the bills on myself for a few months i couldn’t offered to pay USA discounters the entire amount they harrased me said that they pull my credit report how can i pay all my other bills but not them after explaining my situation to them they belittled me and question why my husband got out and that he shouldn’t have gotten out.my husband shortly after started getting a little unemployment so I was able to pay the full amount agian I told them that his unemployment stopped and that he found work but pending background check before he can start they said they are going to send my file to the level department because they can work out any arrangement or lower my payments. This company has garnished several soldier wages instead of working with me I feel like they are putting me in a more financial hardship what can i do?

    • John Watts says:


      Sorry you had to deal with all of this. If you are in Alabama now, give us a call at 205-879-2447 and we’ll see what we can do to help. With these kinds of folks, we have to look at all the consumer protection laws to see what our options are.

      The company that was harassing you and telling you your husband should have stayed in, etc. — was that USA Discounters or a collection agency?

      Who is on your credit reports — USA Discounters or a debt collector?

      Give us a call if you are in Alabama and we’ll be happy to help anyway we can. 205-879-2447.


      John Watts

  8. Mary says:

    A collection company keeps calling my and when we answer they hang up. They call at least twice a day. Today they decided to speak with my husband, he explained that we’re both disabled and I have some serious health problems and we can’t afford to pay anything at this time. The man told my husband they would continue to call because the bill had to be paid. What can we do

    • John Watts says:


      Sorry you are dealing with this.

      Here’s my suggestion (assuming this is a debt collector subject to the FDCPA):

      1. Document the calls. So take pictures of the calls on your caller ID. If calling your cell phone, then take a screenshot or a picture to show each time they call. Keep a notebook by the phone and use a pen to mark down the time and date and phone number.

      2. See if you can figure out if it is a human being calling or a computer that is calling — the hang ups suggest a computer is calling. One way is when you answer, is there a delay or a message? Or does it go straight to a person speaking? There are other ways but this is one easy way to figure this out.

      3. Have they sent you any collection letters? Save any letters and envelopes.

      4. Get with a consumer protection lawyer — if you are in Alabama call us at 205-879-2447. We can walk you through these steps and others that we don’t want to put in a public comment.

      You do have some options and we can make these guys stop calling you or we can sue them so they stop and pay you money damages.

      Give us a call — 205-879-2447.

      Thanks for reaching out to us.

      John Watts

      PS — if you live outside of Alabama get with a lawyer in your state as we are only licensed in Alabama. Thanks! John

  9. […] firm seeking payment of an alleged homeowner’s association fee constitute a “debt” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?  Yes it […]

  10. […] you have any questions about filing an Alabama FDCPA case or if you would like to discuss your experience with an abusive debt collector, please contact us for a […]

  11. […] current economic state has pushed some debt collectors to “go over the line.” CNN posted an article on the “rogue” debt collectors and how to fight them, […]

  12. […] If you receive voice mails on your home phone, save them. Record them onto a digital recorder or some other recording device so you can have a back up copy of the actual message. Was the mini-miranda given? If not, you are dealing with a collector that does not care that its violation is saved on your voice mail message. That kind of collector (and some of the biggest companies have this policy) will not worry about breaking other parts of FDCPA so be aware that you are dealing with an abusive debt collector. […]

  13. […] you live in Alabama and are facing any type of contact with debt collectors, please contact us and we will be glad to help […]

  14. […] careful and document everything. If you live in Alabama and would like to discuss your options and whether AFNI or any other debt collector has violated federal or state law, please contact […]

  15. […] If you have a debt collector or debt buyer who has been calling third parties then you know how effective it is. How disturbing it is and embarrassing that it is. You have an option – contact us to talk about what your options are in suing the abusive debt collector. It is not only legal – but highly effective – to sue abusive debt collectors who break the law. […]

  16. […] Please feel free to contact us or another consumer attorney if you are facing one of these normally bogus lawsuits by a debt buyer – we will be glad to help and we can also discuss suing abusive collectors and debt buyers. […]

  17. […] The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is a wonderful asset that was designed to protect consumers from abusive and/or inaccurate debt collection. Debt collectors usually try to force you to pay a debt by putting it on your credit report, which makes it look like the debt is legitimately yours. They can also call you, send you things in the mail, and even file a lawsuit against you. Some debt collectors even resort to harassment to try to scare you into paying. The FDCPA makes it illegal for debt collectors to try and force you to pay off a debt that isn’t yours. […]

  18. […] judges since early 2008 by Portfolio Recovery Associates or outside lawyers who handle most of its debt-collection […]

  19. […] collection companies in Minnesota and this suit is the second largest penalty given by the FTC in a debt collection […]

  20. […] each that had caused her credit score to fall from 757 to 680. The bills had been turned over to a debt collection agency and made refinancing much more expensive than she had originally planned for. Worse still, […]

  21. […] Limit (NPSL) it sounds like you can charge as much as you want to. Although not advertised by credit card companies, NPSL cards do have a limit and since most consumers don’t know this it can […]

  22. […] Money has posted an article about the continuing problem of debt collector harassment. This has always been a problem but in recent years the debt-buying market has become quite […]

  23. […] Businessweek has posted an article about an inmate who was running a debt collection company while he was incarcerated. Lamont D. Cooper was imprisoned in October 2009 for violating […]

  24. […] Post has posted an article about the growing problem of debt tagging. Debt tagging is when debt collectors relentlessly contact a consumer about a debt, the problem is that the person being contacted […]

  25. […] files a legitimate lawsuit on a delinquent debt -If the consumer doesn’t repsond, the debt collector will get a default judgment from a court of law. -The debt collector will file post-judgment […]

  26. […] Calls were also made as early as 6:30am and as late as 10:30pm, which a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. […]

  27. […] has posted an interesting article ,that we have turned into a series of posts, where 10 former debt collectors were interviewed to share their experiences in the collections industry…and why they chose to […]

  28. […] has posted an interesting article ,that we have turned into a series of posts, where 10 former debt collectors were interviewed to share their experiences in the collections industry…and why they chose to […]

  29. […] you have had problems with debt collection or debt settlement companies and have further questions or concerns, feel free to contact us […]

  30. […] a 7-2 ruling, the Court has decided that debt collectors who violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act can’t escape consequences by claiming to have been ignorant of or misunderstanding the laws […]

  31. […] an article about how Buffalo, New York has become home to one of the largest concentrations of debt collector companies in the country. Buffalo residents have been desperate for jobs and going into business as […]

  32. […] overview of what debt collectors can and cannot do when they contact you. The FTC says that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act covers “personal, family, and household debts, including money you owe on a personal credit […]

  33. […] FTC’s complaint was that the company violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by illegally trying to collect invalid debts and then reported the debts to credit reporting […]

  34. […] The California Debt Blog has posted an article that gives a basic overview of the different types of attorney fees and how they can relate to a debt collection/creditor harassment case. […]

  35. […] said she thinks he would be alive if not for the stress caused by Green Tree’s debt collectors. She said they sometimes called up to 10 times a day and also called the McLeods’ […]

  36. […] the Fair Debt Collection Protection Act, debt collectors are not allowed […]

  37. […] Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits all sorts of abusive conduct. It does not require you have tapes or recordings to prove your […]

  38. […] pay a debt is not a crime and people should not be threatened with arrest by debt collectors. Also, debt collectors (and constables) are prohibited from showing up or calling where debtors […]

  39. […] It will be interesting to see what collectors do with this information and it will provide an interesting area for us to conduct discovery in to see if the collector knew our client was represented or how our client was treated differently because he or she had previously filed suit against an abusive collection agency. […]

  40. […] The Michigan Collection Law Blog has posted an article about “outrageous debt collectors’ actions.” It gives two examples of creditor harassment that violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. […]

  41. […] if you are dealing with an abusive debt collector, educate yourself and if you live in Alabama, contact us for a free […]

  42. […] collect the correct amounts. The commission also found that debt collectors must do a better job of educating consumers of their rights under the FDCPA. Unless we know our rights under the law, we are at a serious disadvantage and are vulnerable to […]

  43. […] see too many cases of abusive debt collectors. They often will do anything to make us emotional – angry, embarrassed, scared, etc. Using profanity or insulting words is all part of the plan. If you are facing one of these abusive […]

  44. […] We say all of this to point out that collectors are often mean and short tempered because the collection agencies have put too much pressure on them to collect money. In these hard economic times, when it is harder to pay collectors, the collectors receive even more pressure to get money in or at least promises to pay. Some, unfortunately, give in to the temptation and become abusive in order to get the money in. […]

  45. […] D’Ambrosio and Unicredit committed outright violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. (FDCPA). The FDCPA is responsible for protecting consumers and for overseeing debt collectors. The […]

  46. […] Bankruptcy Law Network has posted an article about a recent debt collector scheme that went so far as to impersonate the federal […]

  47. […] firm seeking payment of an alleged homeowner’s association fee constitute a “debt” under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)?  Yes it […]

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