Receiving a phone call saying someone is taking legal action against you can be upsetting and stressful. However, the best thing to do is stay calm and refuse to give out personal information. If someone legitimately tries to sue you, they generally inform you of impending legal proceedings in writing.
In many cases, harassment calls are made by criminals posing as the IRS or other government agencies threatening you with legal action to obtain personal information. These individuals then use this information, such as your Social Security number, to commit identity theft and fraud. In some instances, a debt collection company may call you repeatedly and threaten legal action if you have outstanding credit card debt, medical bills, or student loans.
Harassment calls are a violation of your consumer rights, and you do not have to live with them. A lawyer from Morgan & Morgan can help to stop the harassment. You may be able to sue and pursue damages. Contact us today to find out for free how to stop calls threatening legal action.
Your Rights Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act
The law is on your side if you suffer from repeated threatening calls. Creditors, debt collectors, and telemarketers are not allowed to harass you. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) protects individuals from unwanted texts, calls, and faxes. Companies have to abide by the rules and should not contact individuals without their consent.
Examples of Common TCPA Violations
Some common examples of unlawful harassment and violations of the TCPA act include:
- Calling you despite being on the “do-not-call” registry
- Using an artificial voice or recording to call you
- Sending unwanted text messages
- Using auto-dialing with a pre-recorded or artificial voice (robocalls)
- Unsolicited advertising to faxes without your prior consent
If you are being harassed persistently by a business without having given prior consent or are threatened with legal action, our experienced attorneys can help.
Exceptions to TCPA Rules
Not all unwanted or automated calls are a violation of the TCPA. Some companies and government entities can legally contact you as long as the calls do not include unwanted marketing. Calls that do not violate laws can include:
- Emergency alerts by public safety officials, such as hurricane warnings, amber alerts, and others.
- Educational institutions contacting you regarding school closures, emergencies, and other essential information.
- A bank sending text and voice messages related to your account.
- Utility companies contacting you regarding an emergency.
- Government agencies informing residents about incidents in their area.
- Health care providers texting or calling to remind clients of appointments.
Types of Calls Threatening Legal Action
While there can be a variety of parties making threats over the phone, some of the most types of calls threatening legal action include:
Social Security Number “Phishing”
Individuals typically receive a pre-recorded call warning them about fraud or criminal activity involving their Social Security number. Scammers usually claim they call from a government agency and may threaten legal action, arrest, and other serious consequences.
What You Should Do
Receiving this type of robocall can be upsetting. The recorded message may mention filing a lawsuit against your Social Security number. However, these calls are always scams. The Social Security Administration (SSA) never calls individuals asking for their Social Security number. Moreover, government agencies do not threaten legal action over the phone. Therefore, you must not give out any of your personal information, such as your Social Security number or bank account details, over the phone.
Debt Collection Calls
In some cases, scammers pose as debt collection agencies or the police and threaten you with legal action or arrest if you do not pay your debts. It is important to note that legitimate debt collection companies are not permitted to threaten you. Moreover, they have to comply if you ask for the calls to stop. Red flags signaling that the debt collection calls are connected to a scam include:
- The calls are abusive and aggressive
- The caller threatens you with an immediate lawsuit
- The caller says that you will be arrested if you do not comply
- The company demands payment of your debt immediately
In some cases, a legitimate collection company may threaten to file a lawsuit against you or mention that you must pay immediately. However, they generally do not threaten you with immediate arrest or another punishment if you do not pay your loan back today.
What You Should Do
If you are aggressively threatened and harassed, it is best to hang up immediately. Do not pay anything or give out any personal information until you determine whether the caller is a legitimate debt collection agency. You can run an internet search with the phone number that called you. Such a search can reveal others who have received threats from the same number. You could also contact your creditor to determine which debt collection agency they hired to collect your debt.
You Could Sue the Party Making Threatening Calls
We all know how annoying robocalls can be. However, if you are persistently harassed, you do not have to stand for it and have options. For example, you could turn the tables and file a lawsuit against the company harassing you. You could have a case if you suffer from harassment by the following companies and others:
- Debt collection agencies
- Banks and credit card companies
- Student loan companies
- Check-cashing businesses
- Mortgage providers
- Companies engaging in aggressive marketing
Is It Harassment?
Not every phone call amounts to harassment under the law. Courts generally consider the following facts when determining phone harassment:
Timing of Calls
While calls made during normal business hours may not suggest harassment, unsolicited late-night or early-morning calls generally do.
Frequency of Calls
Sometimes, a debt company makes a legitimate call to demand payment. However, repeated calls could be unlawful, especially if you previously asked the company to stop calling.
Threatening calls, such as a phone call saying they will take legal action against you or that you are facing arrest, most likely amounts to harassment.
You Could Qualify for Damages
If a business violated the TCPA or other laws by harassing and threatening you over the phone, you could be entitled to monetary compensation. You could receive amounts for your actual losses, such as any phone minutes or texting charges associated with harassment calls.
If a company willfully or knowingly violated the TCPA and persistently harassed you, you may receive statutory damages of $500 – $1,500 for each violation. Importantly, you could also be entitled to injunctive relief. Injunctive relief is a court order that stops the violating company from contacting you again with calls or faxes without your prior consent.
Genuine Legal Threats by Debt Collection Agencies
Most phone calls threatening individuals with a lawsuit are scams or baseless harassment. A debt collector agency may merely make empty threats over the phone. Debt collectors might threaten you with legal action when they have run out of time for filing a lawsuit, after your state’s deadline for filing a lawsuit has passed. Genuine attempts to sue you will usually arrive in writing. However, in some cases, the threat of litigation can be real.
A genuine debt collecting agency may contact you over the phone, threatening to take you to court over an unpaid debt. If they follow through and send you a threatening letter or serve you with a summons, you will have to take action and respond. Consider speaking to a lawyer as soon as possible to find out what you should do when a debt collector tries to sue you. Morgan & Morgan offers free first consultations to help you understand your situation and legal options.
Morgan & Morgan Is on Your Side
At Morgan & Morgan, we understand how worrying phone calls threatening legal action can be. If you receive multiple calls, voice mails, and texts harassing you throughout the day or even night, get in touch with us. Moreover, if you have already received a court summons or other legal papers, do not delay seeking legal help. Our motivated and experienced attorneys can represent you if you are harassed or sued by an aggressive debt collection company.