Debt Collector Threats and Other Abuses in North Carolina
Creditors have the right to seek the collection of debt. In fact, if you were owed money from someone, you would likely seek repayment as well. But there are also many instances in which creditors can go too far! They call at all hours of the day and they contact family and friends. Sometimes they threaten public embarrassment or even bodily harm. Residents in North Carolina, however, have protections found in North Carolina General Statutes, Article 75, et seq.
Creditors can be relentless in their pursuits of money. Lately, a new phenomenon of “Debt Buyers” is the main culprits. “Debt Buyers” are those companies that have purchased another creditor’s debts, often at a discount, in order to fleece the debtor for as much money as possible. These debt collectors often act without regard for the protections afforded to the Debtor by law, since the overbearing harassment produces such a lucrative payout. Notwithstanding, no debt collector is immune to the law and ignorance thereof is no excuse.
Threats and Coercion (N.C.G.S. 75-51):
A debt collector may not:
- Use or threaten to use violence or any illegal means to cause harm to the person, reputation or property of any person.
- Falsely accuse or threaten to accuse any person of fraud or any crime, or of any conduct that would tend to cause disgrace, contempt or ridicule.
- Make or threaten to make false accusations to another person, including any credit reporting agency that a consumer has not paid, or has willfully refused to pay a just debt.
- Threaten to sell or assign, or to refer to another for collection, the debt of the consumer with an attending representation that the result of such sale, assignment or reference would be that the consumer would lose any defense to the debt or would be subjected to harsh, vindictive, or abusive collection attempts.
- Represent that nonpayment of an alleged debt may result in the arrest of any person.
- Represent that nonpayment of an alleged debt may result in the seizure, garnishment, attachment, or sale of any property or wages unless such action is in fact contemplated by the debt collector and permitted by law.
- Threaten to take any action not in fact taken in the usual course of business, unless it can be shown that such threatened action was actually intended to be taken in the particular case in which the threat was made.
Harassment (N.C.G.S. 75-52):
A Debt Collector also shall not harass of abuse a person in an attempt to collect a debt. Such acts may include:
- Use of profane or obscene language, or language that would ordinarily abuse the typical hearer or reader.
- Calling a debtor’s telephone or engaging any person in telephone conversation with such frequency as to be unreasonable or to constitute a harassment to the person under the circumstances or at times known to be times other than normal waking hours of the person.
- Placing telephone calls or attempting to communicate with any person, contrary to his instructions, at his place of employment, unless the debt collector does not have a telephone number where the consumer can be reached during the consumer's nonworking hours.
Recourse (N.C.G.S. 75-15/16):
All of the laws in North Carolina that protect debtors from these unfair debt collection attempts would carry no weight if there were no penalties. Accordingly, the law in North Carolina allows those debtors who are subject to this relentless and illegal behavior of debt collectors to recoup from them actual damages as well as other punitive and penalties, up to $4000 per instance. “Per instance” is critical because it allows a debtor to recoup for every phone call, every letter, every email and any other form of communication that may be deemed harassing or threatening by the court. Furthermore, the North Carolina statutes allow the debtor to recoup their attorney’s fees for having an attorney pursue their claim against the debt collector. Therefore, in many instances a debtor will not have to pay any upfront attorney fees to pursue claims against a debt collector who has harassed or threatened them. If you are interested in setting up an appointment to discuss these and other issues you may have with debt collectors, please do not hesitate to contact us at Arnold & Smith, PLLC. One of our experienced attorneys can help you stop further harassment.