One of the more annoying aspects of falling behind on your debt obligations is dealing with phone calls from creditors or collection agencies. Some creditors begin calling you at 8:00 am and continue if not daily, then several times per week. Many are able to get your work phone number and call you there, which is not only embarrassing but disruptive.
Creditors and collectors are subject to regulations, however, under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, a federal law. California has its own state law or the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act under Civil Code 1788-1788.33. Under this legislation, a creditor is prohibited in engaging in the following activities:
- Calls that harass, abuse or annoy
- Calls before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm
- Using obscene or profane language
- Threatens you with violence
- Threatens to do things that are illegal
- Misrepresents the amount owed
- Misrepresents that they are an attorney
- Uses other other false or deceptive practices
- Uses a postcard to contact you
- Continues to call you at work knowing that the employer prohibits such calls
- Continues to call you at work after you asked them to stop the practice
If a creditor is using any of these methods, keep a detailed record of your communications including date and time of call and name of the representative along with the content of the call. A complaint can be made to the state Attorney General’s Public Inquiry Unit or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
A creditor can, however, verify with your employer that you do work there. It can also file a lawsuit against you if you ignore legitimate calls for you to pay the obligation or you fail to make arrangements for payment.
Bankruptcy and Harassment Calls
Creditor calls can be stopped when you file for bankruptcy protection. Under the automatic stay provision of 11 USC Section 362 of the US Bankruptcy Code, all collection activity must cease the moment your petition is filed. Notices are sent to each of the creditors you listed in your petition, though you can simply advise the caller of the file number and chapter of the bankruptcy and that they were listed as a creditor. Once notice is given, then the collection calls must cease.
At this point, the only communication the creditor is allowed is to ask for the name of your attorney. No other contact or communication with you is permitted unless the creditor is able to have the automatic stay lifted for some reason, though most creditors are not able to do this. When your bankruptcy is discharged and if the creditor was unsecured, that debt will be discharged and you will have no further obligations to pay it.