16 ways to tell if a Debt Collector or Creditor’s actions are harassment
Creditors and Debt Collectors are expected to behave in an appropriate manner when it comes to recovery of a debt. Unfortunately, not all do. It is important to know what type of behaviour is acceptable and what is not.
Some companies assume that people do not have the knowledge and may try and see what they can get away with, or how far they can push things. The moment they realise the person they are dealing with knows what is acceptable, and what is not you will see a drastic change in behaviour.
In short, they are expected to follow the guidance from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and should they be found behaving inappropriately, may have to answer to the Financial Ombudsman.
Here are 16 tell-tale signs to look out for, that can be classed as harassment:
SIGN #1 - They just keep calling…
Contacting you several times via phone or SMS like a stalker, can be classed as harassment. Even though there is no set limit to the number of calls made or texts that can be sent in a day, you are still able to raise a complaint if you believe it’s excessive. Different people have different thresholds so what might be a reasonable amount for one person may be excessive for another.
SIGN #2 - Who’s calling at this time of night?
Contacting you at early hours of the morning or late at night can be classed as harassment. No-one wants a 5am wakeup call on Sunday morning after a night out (assuming you’re home by then). There’s no actual law that states they cannot do this, however this can be deemed as harassment in the eyes of the Financial Ombudsman.
As a guide we tend to use the example of bailiff’s permitted working hours which is between 6am - 9pm. Anything outside of that time would be totally unacceptable. Remember, you can always set your phone to silent if you do not want to be disturbed.
SIGN #3 - They’re telling me to borrow the money from someone or sell my house……
No no no… this is serious. Under no circumstances are creditors or debt collectors allowed to suggest you borrow money or raise the cash by selling assets to pay their debts. This can put you in a worse financial position than you’re currently in.
You should not be prioritising one creditor over another when the debt is not a priority debt. If a creditor or debt collector suggests you borrow or raise cash by selling assets, immediately make a complaint. You may end up with compensation. We have you covered on the procedure to make a complaint against a financial institution too!
SIGN #4 - A debt collector has just slid into my DMs…
Contacting you using social media channels is not allowed. Whether it is via a direct message or publicly posting on your page. The latter being the worse of the two. Debt collectors and creditors must use acceptable channels for example post, phone or email. Contacting you via social media can be classed as harassment.
SIGN #5 - I have two different debt collectors chasing me for the same debt
Creditors and debt collectors cannot assign two different debt collectors to chase you for the same debt at the same time.
In case you didn’t know, debt collectors buy debts and sometimes outsource it to other debt collectors to collect. Yes, we know that might sound confusing, but some debt collectors have too many debts to cope with, hence the reason for outsourcing.
Having two debt collectors chasing you for the same debt at the same time is straight harassment. If this is happening to you, you can take action against the debt owner. Again, you can see how to do that here.
SIGN #6 - This letter looks like it’s from the court but I’m not sure..
Debt collectors or creditors like to use different tactics to try and get people to pay up. If you’ve read our 'Taking control of your emotions and your debt' article, you will now understand how emotions play a major part in debt recovery. It’s sad to say this but some debt collectors or creditors use the illusion that your debt is more serious than it is by doing things like:
- Using a logo similar to a county court logo
- Using paper designs similar to court papers
Using tactics like this that are misleading, is harassment and can cause some people to act unnecessarily or emotionally in response to the letter.
SIGN #7 - I’ve been told that bailiffs can remove my belongings without court action
There’s a reason why we say you should keep communication in writing (so that you have a clear record of what has been said). Some debt collectors or creditors have been known to imply that certain legal actions can be taken or state that legal action has already been taken when it is simply not true.
For example, telling you that if you don’t pay up, bailiffs will come to your home to recover goods without going to court (which is false). This is harassment and can scare a person into taking unnecessary action.
Another example is a debt collector or creditor stating that your debt has been to court and you’ve already received a County Court Judgement (CCJ). When, in fact, that has never happened.
If anything like this happens to you, try and gather the evidence and make a complaint using this process here.
SIGN #8 - I’ve been told I could go to prison if I don’t pay
Yes, we know it sounds crazy, but some debt collectors or creditors are so determined to make you pay that they will even tell you that you could go to prison if you don’t.
Going to prison because you owe money to a debt collector or creditor is a straight lie, harassing, and debt collectors and creditors are not allowed to say this. This may be the case in some countries but not in the UK. There would probably be more people incarcerated than on the street it that was the case.
There are some cases, with Government debt, where there is a possibility of this happening, but this is not the norm.
SIGN #9 - I’ve been threatened with violence if I don’t pay
This isn’t Narcos, you’re not dealing with Pablo Escobar.
Under no circumstances can a debt collector or a creditor threaten you physically or verbally if you don’t pay. If that does happen to you, take it seriously! Immediately call the police as your safety is paramount. Once you know you are safe, follow the process of filing a complaint. Harassing behaviour like this is completely unacceptable.
SIGN #10 - I’m being pressured to clear the debt
A creditor or debt collector should never pressurise you to clear the debt or pay large sums towards the debt that you cannot afford.
This, again, is completely unacceptable and can be classed as harassment. Under Section 7.3 of the Financial Conduct Authority Handbook, creditors are never allowed to suggest amounts for a person to pay when in financial difficulty. Never feel pressured to pay what you cannot afford under any circumstances.
SIGN #11 - The debt collector told my colleague about my debt
There’s a reason you need to go through data protection before being able to discuss your debt with a debt collector or creditor.
Your debt situation is your business and yours only.
That means that a debt collector or creditor cannot discuss anything to do with your situation with anyone else but you. They can’t ask anyone to pass on a message about your debt to you. Not your partner, not your parents, no one. Actions like this can put serious pressure on a person hence the reason it’s not acceptable.
SIGN #12 - They said they work on behalf of the court but I'm not sure...
Claiming to work for or on behalf of the court when that information is false, is again harassment.
When you are told something by a debt collector or creditor, don’t immediately take what they say as fact. It’s so important to ask questions or do your research (which you can do on this site). Remember knowledge is power, the more you understand about this subject, the easier it is for you to identify if someone is deliberately trying to harass or pressure you.
SIGN #13 - I’ve just had a call from someone claiming to be a bailiff
It is well known that the word “bailiff” can send some people into a frenzy. Debt collectors and creditors know that. Unfortunately, some of them have been known to use this as a tactic to harass people into paying, whether they can afford to or not. If you are not sure whether a person is truly a bailiff, ask for their company name and check to see if they appear on any of these links below:
If you do find that a company is trying to impersonate a bailiff, you know what to do. Click here to follow the complaints process.
SIGN #14 - No one told me my debt has been passed on
If you are contacted by a debt collector for a debt and you have not been informed by the original creditor that this is happening. The communication from the debt collector is classed as harassment.
You must be provided with a “notice of assignment”. If you don’t know what this is, it’s all good, we got you. Very simply, it is a letter from the original creditor informing you that your debt has been passed to a third party for collection.
If you haven’t been sent this, you can simply tell the debt collector that you will not engage with them until it has been provided. You shouldn’t just pay money to any random company that contacts you.
SIGN #15 - Public humiliation and embarrassment
Talking about your debt in a public place can be classed as harassment.
This could be online, it could be physically, or over the phone etc. As we mentioned at SIGN #11, your situation is your business and no one else’s.
Creditors and debt collectors are not allowed to name and shame or feed the details to people who know you therefore causing you embarrassment or humiliation. It is also a very serious breach of data protection. If this ever happens you must make an official complaint about this and go through the process. You should expect to be compensated for this sort of behaviour.
To see how to complain click here.
SIGN #16 - I’ve told them I don’t owe them money and they won’t listen
If you have told the debt collector or creditor that you believe you don’t owe them any money, they must stop asking you to pay and investigate your claim. They must not ignore your claim.
If they continue to contact you asking for payment despite your claim, it is harassment. No means no. No does not mean carry on.
Do make sure you keep everything in writing, so you have proof that you have informed them and proof that they continued to pursue you. Again, follow the complaints procedure article
Don't forget to read The Real Debt Guy's final thoughts below!
The information in this article is considered to be true and correct at the date of publication.