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Debt collection harassment tactics and how to defend yourself

Dealing with debt collectors in Maryland can be stressful. While collectors have the right to collect money owed, consumers also have rights that protect them from harassment.

Debt collectors sometimes employ various shady tactics to recover debts. Maryland residents should know how to defend themselves effectively.

Threats and intimidation

Some collectors may resort to threats or intimidation to pressure consumers into paying. You should know that it is illegal for debt collectors to make threats of violence or use abusive language. Keep records of any such incidents for evidence.

Misrepresentation of debt

Debt collectors may sometimes try to collect more than the actual debt or misrepresent the amount you owe. Validate the debt by requesting detailed information and verifying its accuracy.

Contacting third parties

Debt collectors are generally not allowed to discuss a consumer’s debt with third parties such as friends, family or employers. To protect yourself, inform collectors in writing that you do not want third-party contact.

Threats of legal action

Some collectors may threaten legal action, even if they have no intention of pursuing it. Be aware that debt collectors must follow specific legal procedures to take legal action, and you can report empty threats. For example, Maryland’s Consumer Protection Division received 11,375 complaints in 2022.

Re-aging old debts

Debt collectors may attempt to re-age old debts to make them appear more recent and collectible. Creditors in Maryland generally have three years to file a lawsuit for debts.

Ignoring disputes

If a consumer disputes a debt in writing, debt collectors must provide verification. Never ignore a debt dispute but do follow up to ensure the preservation of your rights.

Excessive calls and communication

Debt collectors often resort to incessant phone calls, emails and letters, which can feel overwhelming. To defend against this, request in writing that collectors cease communication. Similarly, debt collectors cannot call you at your workplace if you have told them not to. Notify collectors in writing about your workplace restrictions.

Debt collectors must send a written validation notice within five days of their first contact. If you do not receive this notice, request it immediately.