Sunday, November 13, 2011

How to Document Debt Collector Harassment: Keeping an Evidence Folder

If you're hiding from the telephone or cringing every time you pick up the line, you might be a victim of debt collector harassment. I'm not going to outline exactly what constitutes abuse from collectors because I've talked it half to death in the past, but I am going to point out some good ways to document debt collector harassment and create an evidence folder of the abuse. Not only does creating a paper trail help you defend yourself, it can be essential in making the abuse stop.

Documenting Debt Collector Harassment

Many, many people I talk to fail to properly document debt collector harassment because they feel that doing so would be both pointless and difficult. If you're skirting collection calls, you've already got a lot on your plate. I know that. But keeping a log of the abuse helps you prove it in court.

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:

  • The date
  • The exact time of the call
  • The name or employee reference number of the debt collector you spoke with
  • What the debt collector said to you. Be as specific as possible.
  • What you said to the collector
  • If you have the ability to record the call, record as many collection calls as you can and keep written notes on the rest.

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.

Tip: If you don't want to answer the telephone when debt collectors call, you can still document the frequency of their calls as part of a harassment claim. Make sure you note the date and time of each call and the number the call came in from.

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:

  • The judge will see that you took the time to keep track of and organize records. This is far more than most debtors bother to do. That effort alone speaks volumes. 
  • Collection agencies record all of their calls. The judge can look at your records and request that the company locate and turn over recordings of each call you cited. 
  • The judge will take into consideration your evidence record as a whole and the story it tells. If your documentation of the harassment includes your own efforts to communicate and solve the problem, this speaks strongly in your favor. 

and here comes what is, for some, the best reason to keep good documentation of harassment by debt collectors:

  • If you already have a thorough record of debt collector abuse, your attorney or consumer advocate has to do less work to help you. You've already done the work for them. The end result? Your defense costs less. A LOT less. 

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.


  1. Credit recovery services are needed when the creditor is unable to focus on the issue.Debt recovery is the forte of such debt collection services which help us clearing the delinquent accounts on time.

  2. Just one thing though: make sure that you report or file a complaint before a year passes. Otherwise, you cannot accuse collectors of harassment.

    Informative entry, BTW.

  3. Hi All,
    Harnessing over debt collection is a crime. Debt Collection should be done in a legal way in a proper manner. Keeping an evidence about debt collector harness is a good idea if the rules are broken.

    Thanks Great blog.