Creditor Harassment: Be Sure to Preserve Evidence

phone--creditor harrassmentWritten by Charleston Bankruptcy Lawyer, Russell A. DeMott

Creditors use harassment as a way to get you to pay.

Sure, there are laws against this.  There’s the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (“FDCPA”), a federal law.  And in South Carolina, we have the South Carolina Consumer Protection Code as well. Both statutes prohibit various types of creditor harassment like calling after certain times, use of profanity, threats of bodily injury, pretending to be from the government, threatening jail as a punishment for not paying the debt–among others.

But you need to prove it!

The slimy underbelly of the debt collection “industry” operates in the shadows and, many times, oversees. Much of what creditors do to get debtors to pay is to simply call virtually non-stop until the debtor can’t take it anymore.  Paying becomes less painful than dealing with the relentless stream of calls.

Here’s a recent call recorded by a client of the Duncan Law Firm in North Carolina. Click here to listen.

That would never happen to me!

Guess again. One of my client got a very similar call in which the caller (obviously from India) said he was a law enforcement officer.  It does happen. And if it does, DO NOT erase the message. The message is evidence and can be used against the creditor holding that debt. This can mean an award of attorneys fees or other damages–sometimes very significant.

Keep records

Keep records of any calls you believe might violate state or federal laws. Keep anything they send you in writing. And keep those voice mail records debt collectors leave. Remember that the goal is to preserve evidence. This applies even if you’ve filed bankruptcy. The creditor’s calls or letters could be a violation of the automatic stay or discharge injunction.



Russell A. DeMott is a bankruptcy lawyer practicing in the Charleston, South Carolina area. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1993. While in law school, Russ served as a law clerk to Robert F. (“Bob”) Anderson in Columbia. Bob Anderson is a Chapter 7 bankruptcy trustee and, according to Bob, has taught Russ everything he knows.

During his clerkship with Bob Anderson, Russ also worked with fellow SC Bankruptcy Blog member Däna Wilkinson who now practices in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Russ still considers Däna a good friend and mentor. Unbeknownst to Bob Anderson, Russ also learned a lot about bankruptcy law from Däna.

Russ also served as a staff editor and the research editor for The South Carolina Law Review during law school.

For the first two years after law school, Russ clerked for the Honorable Harry A. Beach, circuit court judge in Allegan, Michigan. Russ says of Judge Beach: “Judge Beach was the epitome of an outstanding judge. He had both knowledge and wisdom. He treated lawyers and litigants with respect and always tried to be fair to both sides. It was an honor to have started my career as his law clerk. Judge Beach is now retired, and he is deeply missed on the bench. One attorney friend of mine actually cried during her last hearing before Judge Beach. And I’m sure many others have shed tears since his retirement. ”

For the next ten years, Russ practiced in Michigan in the areas of bankruptcy law, family law, criminal defense, and general litigation. As the years went on, Russ practiced more and more bankruptcy law as he gained an outstanding reputation in that area.

In 2005 Russ moved back to South Carolina to settle in the Summerville area. Russ’s wife grew up in Hanahan, South Carolina and most of his wife's family live in the Charleston area. "That can be both good and bad at the same time," Russ says. He officially declined to comment further about his relationship with his in-laws.

Russ has three daughters, three female cats, and a female dog. He is outnumbered. As Russ puts it, “to borrow a line from Jeff Foxworthy, I’m 'swimming in the estrogen ocean.'”

Russ enjoys the challenge of helping clients with their financial struggles. “I view my bankruptcy practice as a way to level the playing field between ordinary citizens—the voters—and Corporate America—the vote buyers. I’m unapologetically on the side of the little guy.”

Russ helps clients file Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, as well as out-of-court solutions like negotiating with creditors.

Contact Information:
Russell DeMott, Charleston Area Bankruptcy Lawyer
DeMott Law Firm, P.A.
103 Grandview Drive, Suite B
Summerville, South Carolina 29483
(843) 695-0830
(843) 408-4443 (facsimile)
[email protected]

photo by: linh.ngan

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