Can a Debt Collector Swear at Me?

No. It is illegal for a debt collector to use profane or abusive language in order to strongarm you into making payments. That’s a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Debt collectors can be very aggressive when trying to settle an account. But no matter what pressure they are under to collect the money owed as quickly as possible, it is against federal law for them to use curse words and abusive language to harass you into paying. A debt collector who harasses you, threatens you, or uses profanity when speaking to you in connection with collecting a debt violates Section 806 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

The FDCPA protects you

The FDCPA offers protection to you from a debt collector intent on harming you, your family, your reputation, or your property when they’re collecting a debt. Without the FDCPA, debt collectors could routinely browbeat stressed and frustrated consumers with vulgar and obscene remarks, racial and ethnic slurs, and other unfair attacks on a person’s work ethic, willingness or ability to pay their debts, and personal safety.

Applying pressure to a consumer by using profanity has been found by courts to violate the FDCPA. In Horkey vs. JVDB & Associates, Inc., a debt collector phoned and told Ms. Horkey’s coworker, “Tell Amanda to stop being such a f—- b—-.” The court ruled that the debt collector’s behavior was a violation of Section 806(2) of the FDCPA.

Ms. Horkey won her case against this collector because:

  • The debt collector wanted the co-worker to relay his message, profanities included, to embarrass and upset her.
  • The collector had spoken to Ms. Horkey about her debt 15 minutes prior to leaving a message with her coworker for a callback.
  • The collector’s language when trying to obtain money from Ms. Horkey was harassing, oppressive, and abusive.

A debt collector can’t swear at you even if you use profanity regarding the debt in question. In United States vs. Central Adjustment Bureau, the government proved that the debt collection agency consistently abused consumers and violated the FDCPA by:

  • Making harassing and abusive telephone calls to consumers and relatives, including the use of racial slurs, belligerent threats, and terms like “liar,” “deadbeat,” and “crook.”
  • Using obscene and profane language in collection calls, including the terms, “g–d— liar” and “low-down s—of a b—-.”

What should you do if a debt collector swears or curses at you?

Don’t hesitate to bring a debt collection agency to justice when they’ve upset you. They may have broken the law and violated your consumer rights. Under most circumstances, it is up to the consumer to bring suit under the FDCPA. Unless you do, the debt collector won’t be held accountable for their actions. Do contact an experienced debt collection abuse lawyer to help you sue the debt collector. Because the FDCPA has what are called fee-shifting provisions, the debt collection agency that violates the law is liable for attorney fees and court costs. You can also recover up to $1,000 in statutory damages.

Case citations
Horkey vs. JVDB & Associates, Inc., 179 F. Supp. 2d 861 (N.D. Ill. 2002).
United States vs. Central Adjustment Bureau, 667 F. Supp. at 376, 388, 390-394

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