Falling behind on your bills is stressful enough, but when debt collectors start aggressively contacting you, it can be a nightmare. Like many in this situation, you may reach the point where you are afraid to answer your phone, reluctant to leave the house and worried that others will find out how bad your situation has become.

While such concerns are understandable, it may comfort you to know that there are limitations to the methods creditors can use and the steps they can take while attempting collect a debt. Knowing those limitations may help you recognize when a debt collector has gone too far.

How far can collectors go?

Creditors have the right to pursue the debt you owe, and they may turn your account over to a debt collector to do the dirty work for them. However, a debt collector may not harass you. While any call from a debt collector may feel like harassment, according to the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, certain actions by creditors or their agents violate your rights, for example:

  • Threatening you with violence or arrest
  • Using language that is offensive, obscene or abusive
  • Sharing information about your debt with anyone else, including your employer
  • Calling you repeatedly throughout the day

In fact, a debt collector may not call you outside the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m., and if you make a written request for calls to stop, the debt collector must honor your request. Anyone attempting to collect a debt from you must avoid coming to your place of employment, but they may call you there provided they do not tell your co-workers the reason for their call. You can make a request in writing for collectors to cease calling you at work, and they must obey.

Stopping the harassment

While you may be able to put a stop to harassing phone calls, the debt remains. You may not hear from the creditors, but that doesn’t mean they are not taking steps to collect their money. If you are unable to pay what the creditor says you owe, you may find yourself facing a lawsuit to collect the money.

Fortunately, there are options available that help many in your situation to end debt collection actions altogether. A California attorney can advise you on the best alternatives for your situation, which may include filing for bankruptcy. In many cases, bankruptcy can eliminate or reorganize debt and provide a better opportunity for a fresh financial start.