Federal survey shows abuse by debt collectors is widespread

A new federal survey has found widespread harassment of consumers by debt collectors.

Federal law lays down a number of rules that debt collectors are supposed to abide by when contacting those who owe debts. However, as USA Today reports, a new survey of consumers by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has found that many debt collectors routinely ignore these rules. The survey concluded that even when consumers tried to put an end to the harassment, many debt collectors nonetheless failed to comply with the law. The survey is an important reminder to anybody who may be struggling with debts that creditor harassment is illegal and that steps can be taken - including possibly filing for bankruptcy - to make it stop.

Collectors harassing consumers

The CFPB survey included responses from more than 2,000 consumers. The results found that a quarter of all consumers who have been contacted by a debt collector felt threatened. Furthermore, three quarters of respondents who said they asked a debt collector to stop contacting them nonetheless continued to receive contact. By law, debt collectors must stop trying to contact a consumer if that consumer requests, in writing, that they cease contact.

The law also says that debt collectors can only call consumers between 8am and 9pm unless given permission by the consumer to do otherwise. However, a third of respondents said they received calls outside of these hours. Even more alarmingly, as Money Magazine reports, in more than half of all cases debt collectors called people about an unpaid debt that either did not belong to that individual or was in the wrong amount.

Struggling with debt

The problem of creditor harassment is one that more and more Americans are experiencing given that debt problems are so widespread. For example, 35 percent of American adults who have a credit file have at least one debt that is in collections, according to a 2014 study. That's equivalent to about 77 million Americans having a debt that is currently in collections.

Furthermore, the CFPB study found that the way debt collectors and lenders handle consumers' privacy is troubling. For example, the report noted that lists of supposed debtors are often put up for sale on online marketplaces. Alarmingly, many of those lists include sensitive unencrypted information, including debtors' Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other information that can be used to steal their identities.

Bankruptcy law

Creditor harassment is a widespread and frustrating issue, but there is one way to make the unwanted phone calls stop. While not right for everybody, bankruptcy does provide a way for consumers to end creditor harassment and to get back on their feet. By talking to a bankruptcy attorney today, those struggling with debts will have somebody who can deal with the creditors on their behalf and ensure that their rights and best interests are respected.