Documenting Abuse

Documenting Harassment

When a debt collector breaks the law, it is extremely important to have proof that it occurred. Just like any other lawsuit you might file, enough evidence needs to exist in order for you to win your case. That is why it is extremely important to document all your communications with debt collectors.  The best way to do this is by taking down handwritten notes during or very shortly after a phone call was made.  Not only does it lend credibility to any claims that you make, but it also ensures that your memory about the incident will be very accurate.

Harassment in the Form of Excessive Phone Calls

If a debt collector keeps calling you over and over again, this may constitute harassment or abuse. However, it is still important to document each call by logging down all the attempted contacts on a piece of paper as they come in, including the date/time of the call, the telephone number that appeared on the caller ID and whether a message was left (explaining what the message said).  You might be tempted to let call records from your telephone company tell the story for you, but you may be surprised to discover that not every call is documented and sometimes attempts are consolidated or omitted altogether.

What Other Kind of Evidence Can Be Used to Support My Claims?

Handwritten notes are very useful, but they are not the only types of evidence a consumer can present in support of his/her lawsuit.  Evidence can come in the form of voicemails or answering machine messages, letters to (or from) the debt collector, and even statements from knowledgeable witnesses to the unlawful events or the impact suffered by the consumer who was targeted.

What about Recording Telephone Calls?

Under federal law and most state laws there is nothing illegal about one of the parties to a telephone call recording the conversation, or giving permission for calls to be recorded. However, several states (including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington) require that both parties to the call consent to the recording of the telephone conversation.  The difficulty of course is determining where the debt collector you are talking to is really located – because their state may require that the consent of all parties is necessary to lawfully record the call.

It should be noted that telephone recordings can sometimes cause a negative reaction to claims of harassment, abuse, deception or other unfair conduct. The reason being that most people assume that a consumer who is savvy or thoughtful enough to record a call may also be less likely to be affected by the illegal behavior or possibly even looking to trap a collector into breaking the law. Thus, take caution when gathering evidence to support your claim as it can sometimes surprisingly backfire.