The founders of our country understood that a fresh start under federal law is so essential to the fiscal health and economic vitality of our country; they included the right to file bankruptcy in Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution.

The following debt collection practices are prohibited under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA):

  • Threatening violence;
  • Using obscene language;
  • Calling persistently with the intent to irritate or annoy amounts to harassment;
  • Calling a debtor's home at odd hours;
  • Calling a debtor at their place of employment when the debtor has requested not to be called at work;
  • Calling relatives or friends without your permission;
  • Falsely implying that the debt collector is an attorney or government representative;
  • Falsely implying that a debtor has committed a crime;
  • Indicating that correspondence sent by a debt collector is from an attorney when it is not;
  • Implying that nonpayment of any debt will result in loss of personal property, wages, or that you will be arrested unless (a) it is lawful and (b) the creditor intends to follow through with such action (note that the possibility that nonpayment of a debt could result in arrest is extremely unlikely);
  • Threatening to take action that is not legal or that the debt collector does not intend to take;
  • Implying that the transfer of interest in the debt to someone else will result in loss of personal property or wages, or that the debtor will be arrested;
  • Falsely representing that the debtor has committed a crime in an effort to disgrace the debtor;
  • Misrepresenting a debtor's credit to others or failing to communicate to others that a debtor is disputing a debt;
  • Using written communication which simulates or is falsely represented to be a document authorized, issued or approved by any court, official or agency of the U.S. or any state, or which creates a false impression as to its source, authorization, or approval;
  • Contacting a debtor by post card;
  • Using any false or deceptive means to attempt to collect a debt or obtain information about a consumer;
  • Failing to disclose clearly in all communication that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained will be used for that purpose;
  • Falsely implying that accounts have been turned over to innocent purchasers;
  • Falsely implying that documents are part of the legal process when they aren't;
  • Falsely stating that papers being sent to a debtor are not legal process forms when they are;
  • Using any business, company, or organization name other than the actual name of the debt collector's business; and
  • Falsely stating that a debt collector is employed by a consumer reporting agency.

Unfortunately, while the FDCPA prohibits such harassment, as a practical matter, proving the violation and collecting damages can be difficult, time consuming and expensive. Some consumer groups argue that the FDCPA does not go far enough, and does not provide sufficient deterrence against unscrupulous collection agencies. For example, consumer groups have complained that the maximum statutory damages contained in the original 1977 version of the law has not kept up with inflation. Even if you can prove harassment, the collector may still escape penalty if it shows that the violation was unintentional and the result of a "bona fide error" that occurred despite procedures designed to avoid the error at issue. The court may even award attorney's fees to the debt collector if you lose the lawsuit and the court determines that you filed the case in bad faith and for the purposes of harassment.

A more effective way to deal with creditor harassment may be through bankruptcy. When a bankruptcy case is filed, an injunction against all debt collection activities (including phone calls) is imposed immediately and all creditors and bill creditors must immediately stop their collection efforts. Once you've filed for bankruptcy, the Bankruptcy Court will notify all creditors of your bankruptcy through the mail. In the meanwhile, since this could take a week or so to reach the creditors, you can notify creditors that you have retained an attorney and have filed a bankruptcy case in case you get a call or a creditor comes ringing your doorbell.

The bankruptcy judges in this district (the Northern District of Texas) take violations of the Automatic Stay very seriously. If the harassment does not cease after the creditor receives notices (either oral or in writing), the bankruptcy court may fine or otherwise sanction a creditor who knowingly violates the Automatic Stay. In some case, the bankruptcy court may award a debtor damages from the creditor for particularly serious violations of the Automatic Stay. For these reasons, putting a stop to creditor harassment is much easier when you are protected by the unique enforcement powers of the bankruptcy courts.

Contact us today to learn more about your options under the current bankruptcy laws. We're here to help. Have questions on filing for bankruptcy and need a Dallas bankruptcy attorney or a Fort Worth bankruptcy attorney? The Patrick D. West Law Firm, P.C. has been providing bankruptcy and debt solution legal counsel for over 20 years. The law office serves bankruptcy clients in these DFW area cities in both Dallas & Tarrant Counties: Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Irving, Grapevine, Grand Prairie, Euless, Bedford, Hurst, Haltom City, Burleson, Colleyville, Mansfield, Keller, Saginaw, West Lake, Richland Hills, Coppell, Lewisville, and more