A creditor, a person who owns your debt, has a legitimate right to attempt to collect on that debt. But just because they have a right to get their money doesn’t mean they have the right to treat people however they want.

Let’s be very clear on something right up front: creditor harassment is prohibited by law, here in Wisconsin and across the US. Whether or not you’ve filed for bankruptcy, debt collectors cannot do whatever they want to get you to pay. The law specifically says that a debt collector may not:

Harass you over the phone

There is a common practice of using the phone to drive a debtor up-the-wall with frustration or annoyance.

Use aggressive language

Debt collectors often try to intimidate debtors by using threats of violence and explicit language. This sort of harassment can take the form of visits, phone calls, or letters.

Shame you

Another common threat from a debt collector is “exposure.” They may call to say they will post your name on a website of delinquent debtors. If your creditor posts your information like this, it is a violation of your rights.

Lie to you

When you receive a call from a creditor, they must tell you who they are and why they are calling. They cannot tell you that you owe more than you owe. They cannot tell you they are an attorney if they are not. Most importantly, they cannot threaten you with an arrest.

But what can you do?

Of course, just because they aren’t supposed to take those actions doesn’t mean they don’t. If a creditor harasses you, you can take steps by reporting them to the proper authorities at the federal and state levels. If your debts are significant, you may even consider filing for bankruptcy and receive an automatic stay on all your debts.

It’s hard enough to fall into debt. No one needs to dread the ring of their phone.