If you’re deep in debt, the constant barrage of harassing phone calls and threatening letters can add to your stress. You may wish to pay everyone, but it may be impossible. At Simon Fitzgerald LLC, we understand your predicament and are here to help. Filing for bankruptcy can provide immediate relief from debt collection and stop creditor harassment.
What is the FDCPA and How Can It Help You?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that protects consumers from certain debt collection tactics. This Act also provides consumer protection regarding the reporting of debts to credit reporting agencies. Along with FDCPA protections, most states offer residents some form of consumer protection against deceptive or unfair creditor practices.
As the primary federal law currently governing debt collectors, the FDCPA prevents collection agencies from using practices that may be considered deceptive, abusive, or unfair. Business debts are not generally covered under the FDCPA. Personal debts, or for family or household purposes are covered, but in general, the original creditor or business you owe money to does not fall under the FDCPA. This means that debt buyers, attorneys hired to collect debts, and collection agencies must honor the rules of the FDCPA which include:
- Debt collectors are not allowed to contact you at unusual times (before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.) or your place of work if they know or should know you cannot receive personal communications at work. If you are called at work or another place where it would be inconvenient for you to talk to a debt collector, the debt collector must terminate the call once you relay this fact.
- Debt collectors may not use public social media posts to contact you regarding a debt but are allowed to private message you through social media unless you request that they not do so. A debt collector is allowed to contact you via email or text, however, they must provide a method that allows you to opt out of these types of communications.
- Harassment of any kind is not allowed under the FDCPA, whether the harassment occurs over the phone or through text or email communications.
- If you have an attorney representing you and the debt collector is aware of this, they must cease all contact with you, contacting only your attorney about a debt collection matter. If you are represented by an attorney and you are contacted by an agency that is collecting a debt, you can provide the caller with the contact information for your attorney, and ask that they cease all correspondence with you, contacting only your attorney. You should keep all correspondence sent by a debt collector in a file, including dates and times you are contacted by a debt collector.
The state of Louisiana also offers protection to consumers against unfair debt collection practices under the Louisiana Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Louisiana Revised Statutes 9, Section 9:3562. Under this act, creditors may not contact people who are not the actual debtor or do not live in the debtor’s household about the debt. Creditors may contact other people to locate the debtor’s property or sue for the debt. If a debt collector in the state breaks the rules under this Act by failing to respect a request from a consumer to limit communication, the consumer may take legal action.
Misrepresentation vs. Harassment
Whether you are being harassed by creditors or they are using misrepresentation to frighten you, it is an unpleasant experience that can potentially also be illegal on the part of the creditor. Even when creditors follow the law, it is never enjoyable to deal with them, but when manipulative or harmful tactics are used to intimidate you, a line has been crossed. Both harassment and misrepresentation are prohibited under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The differences between the two include:
- While harassment is meant to scare you into paying a debt, misrepresentation also aims for compliance but uses trickery and deceit rather than outright threats.
- One of the most common forms of misrepresentation involves a creditor claiming to be an attorney. This form of misrepresentation includes the “attorney” telling you they will take certain actions against you they cannot legally take. This form of misrepresentation rises to the level of harassment if the “attorney” tells you they can have you arrested or evicted for non-payment.
- Inflating the amount you owe is a form of misrepresentation used to prompt you into more immediate action.
- Harassment by a debt collector is more likely to involve repetitious and excessive communications regarding the debt. When a debt collector calls you every single day with dire warnings about your debt, this is harassment.
- Using profane or obscene language, threatening violence or harm, or publishing your name on a public list of individuals who refuse to pay their debts are all forms of creditor harassment.
If you believe your rights under the FDCPA have been violated by a debt collector, you should speak to a knowledgeable creditor harassment attorney from Simon Fitzgerald to discuss suing them for damages.
Civil Laws Against Creditor Harassment
Under the FDCPA, debt collectors may have civil liability regarding harassment or misrepresentation. If the debt collector has not complied with the provisions, you could be entitled to actual damages that result from such non-compliance, not to exceed $1,000 for an individual action. If a specific debt collector or creditor violated the rights of many individuals under the FDCPA, a class action lawsuit can be filed, with damages as the court allows “without regard to a minimum individual recovery, but not to exceed the lesser of $500,000 or one percent of the debt collector’s net worth. All costs of the action against the creditor or debt collector including reasonable attorney’s fees can be awarded by the court as well. As the court determines liability amounts, it will consider:
- The frequency and persistence of non-compliant behaviors
- Whether the non-compliant behaviors were intentional
- The nature of the non-compliant behaviors (i.e., how egregious and damaging the behaviors were)
- Resources of the debt collector
- How many people were adversely affected by the non-compliant behaviors
The Automatic Stay: Your Shield Against Creditor Harassment
One of the immediate benefits of filing for bankruptcy is the automatic stay. This legal provision comes into effect the moment you file for bankruptcy. It serves as a shield, stopping most creditors from continuing with collection activities. This means that the endless phone calls, the threatening letters, and any wage garnishment must cease.
The automatic stay is a powerful tool that can provide you with the peace you need to focus on your bankruptcy case. It’s important to note that not all debts are covered by the automatic stay. For instance, it won’t stop certain tax proceedings, child support actions, or criminal proceedings. However, most forms of creditor harassment will be halted.
Meet Caroline and Henry from Alexandria: A Case Illustration of Regaining Peace and Control by Stopping Creditor Harassment with Simon Fitzgerald LLC
Caroline and Henry, a retired couple from Alexandria, enjoyed their golden years until unexpected medical emergencies led to a financial crisis. The medical bills quickly piled up, and they had to rely on credit cards to make ends meet. Soon, they were overwhelmed by debt and faced relentless harassment from creditors.
The constant phone calls, threatening letters, and aggressive tactics were more than just a nuisance; they were a source of anxiety and fear. The couple felt trapped, unsure how to escape the never-ending cycle of harassment.
Seeking help, Caroline and Henry turned to Simon Fitzgerald LLC. Our team of experienced attorneys quickly assessed their situation and determined that filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy would provide the immediate relief they needed.
The automatic stay was enacted upon filing, putting an immediate stop to all creditor harassment. The phone calls ceased, the letters stopped, and Caroline and Henry could finally find peace in their home.
Our attorneys guided them through bankruptcy, helping them discharge their unsecured debts and regain control of their financial lives. We stood by their side, ensuring they understood their rights and options every step of the way.
When one creditor mistakenly continued to call, our firm acted swiftly, holding the creditor accountable for violating the automatic stay. The court’s intervention ensured that Caroline and Henry’s rights were protected, and the harassment was permanently stopped.
With the support of Simon Fitzgerald LLC, Caroline and Henry were able to stop creditor harassment and rebuild their financial stability. They are now enjoying retirement in Alexandria, free from the stress and anxiety that once plagued them.
If you’re facing creditor harassment in Alexandria or anywhere in Louisiana, don’t hesitate to contact Simon Fitzgerald LLC. We’re here to help you find the relief you need.
How Simon Fitzgerald LLC Can Help
At Simon Fitzgerald LLC, we have a team of experienced attorneys who can guide you through bankruptcy. We can help you understand your options, whether eliminating debts in Chapter 7 or paying a portion over time in a Chapter 13 filing.
Our attorneys will work closely with you to determine the best course of action based on your circumstances. We understand that every situation is unique, and we’re committed to finding a solution that fits your needs.
To learn more about the automatic stay and how it protects you during bankruptcy, click here.
What to Do if Creditor Harassment Continues
If a creditor continues to harass you after you’ve filed for bankruptcy, our attorneys can step in. Any creditor who intentionally violates the automatic stay can be held in contempt of court. This could result in them having to pay you damages and cover your attorney fees.
How to Choose the Best Bankruptcy Lawyers for Me
The choice of a bankruptcy lawyer is an extremely important one. At Simon Fitzgerald, we know you have many choices, but we strongly believe that once you have spoken to an attorney at our firm, your choice will be clear. Simon Fitzgerald, LLC is the oldest bankruptcy law firm in the state of Louisiana, with our original firm tracing back to 1907. This immediately tells you that our firm is solid and dependable. Over the past five decades, our firm has primarily practiced bankruptcy law, filing more than 25,000 cases.
Not only do we have significantly more experience than our competitors, but we also invest more attorney hours in each case, priding ourselves on finding unique solutions for each client. Understanding that having to take time off from work or traveling significant distances can make your situation even more untenable, we work with you to solve your immediate issues as well as your issues related to bankruptcy and creditor harassment. We help Louisiana residents from all walks of life and are proud of our ability to break down complex legal concepts into easy-to-understand information.
At Simon Fitzgerald, we know that big companies and big banks have the money and power to make your life miserable. We strive to level the playing field for those who are at a disadvantage when pitted against these big companies. Helping those who choose bankruptcy get a fresh start and providing each client with real relief from situations they believed were insurmountable is our ongoing goal and we will never allow our clients to be treated disrespectfully by overly aggressive creditors. If you are seeking debt relief and a fresh financial start due to tax debt, payday loans, lawsuits, credit card debt, home foreclosure, car repossession, or medical bills, Simon Fitzgerald can help.
Frequently Asked Questions
Stopping creditor harassment can be stressful, and it’s normal to have questions about how bankruptcy can provide relief. We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about stopping creditor harassment to help you better understand what to expect.
Why Choose Simon Fitzgerald LLC to Stop Creditor Harassment?
Complete and instant relief from creditor harassment may be provided in bankruptcy, but you need a team that combines experience, compassion, and commitment to guide you. At Simon Fitzgerald LLC, we have a legacy of helping clients find relief from creditor harassment and financial stress. Our experienced attorneys can explore bankruptcy filing alternatives such as debt settlement.
Understanding Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 can be easy. Our free guide simplifies it for you. Stay updated with the latest information by signing up for our newsletter. If you’re considering bankruptcy, get a personalized assessment of your options. With our legacy behind us, you don’t have to face creditor harassment alone. Choose us to assist you in regaining control of your financial wellbeing. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and experience working with us. Take action now and regain control of your life.