Documenting Debt Collector Harassment
Now your eyes have gotten big and you're thinking, "But Lee, I don't want to go to court!" I know that too. Keep in mind, however, that you may have grounds to sue the very collectors that are harassing you. If you win, you may be entitled to monetary compensation and the collection agency may just think twice before inflicting the same torment on another debtor. Documenting your communications with collectors also helps you defend yourself in court if the collection agency sues based on something you supposedly did or said that you can subsequently prove never occurred.
Documenting Telephone Harassment
The vast majority of debt collector harassment takes place over the telephone. This is because the majority of a collection agency's business occurs over the phone and because its much harder for debtors to prove that a debt collector violated the FDCPA during a phone call.
Here's what I want you to do: If you're old school and you're receiving collection calls over your landline phone, put a pad of paper and a pen next to the phone. Don't move it. Tell your family not to move it. You'd be surprised how often debtors actually try to pull this off only to discover that their paper and pen is gone when they need it most. Glue it to the counter if you have to, just make sure its there. If you're taking the calls over a cell phone, grab paper and a pen as soon as you answer the phone or see the call coming in. Note the following:
After the call, take the time to put your notes into a manila envelope or folder meant for housing nothing but your documentation of the harassment harassment.
Documenting Mail Harassment
A collection agency is going to take great care not to openly harass you via mail. The company knows better than to provide you with clear lawsuit fodder. That does not mean, however, that collection agencies never violate the FDCPA in their written communications with debtors; they do. Because of this, its important that you save each and every letter you receive from a collection agency. Make a photocopy of each collection letter and put the collection letters in the same envelope as your phone harassment logs.
Organizing the Evidence Folder
Keeping a thorough record of debt collector harassment isn't always enough. You need to create a paper trail of events that demonstrate the collection agency's action, your reaction, the collection agency's response, etc. Thus, its important that you date each piece of evidence you create and keep your files in order.
If you send the collection agency a cease and desist letter, for example, include a copy of the cease and desist letter in your evidence folder. If you're smart and send all communication CRRR, keep copies of the green cards in your folder. You can also include any communication you may have had with the original creditor about the debt in your evidence folder as well.
How Documenting Harassment Benefits You
I know what you're thinking: "If I show up in court with a bunch of written notes, its just my word against theirs! The judge will never believe me!" Here's how keeping good track of your evidence, even handwritten evidence benefits you:
and here comes what is, for some, the best reason to keep good documentation of harassment by debt collectors:
The moral of the story? Start creating an evidence folder documenting debt collector harassment as soon as possible. You never know what the future may hold, and keeping good records and creating a paper trail can never hurt.