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Harassment and Debt

It is not a crime to be in debt!

Many individuals in debt with their credit cards or loans they have taken out, are often subject to unnecessary harassment by lenders. Arguably, it can be justified in some cases whereby the borrower stops paying and fails to inform his/her creditors of the reasons why. Such as dead beats. However, in a lot of instances creditors work under the rule of “he who shouts the loudest gets paid”.

So what is harassment?

There are many more forms of harassment, but these are the most frequent ones:

  • Telephoning at work so as to create embarrassment and fear you will get fired.
  • Threats of personal visits, this is sometimes detailed in letters giving the impression that creditors have greater powers than they really have.
  • Making nuisance visits or telephone calls at inconvenient times, such as 5.30 in the morning
  • Calling or writing to neighbours, pretending they got the wrong number or address to yet again cause you embarrassment.
So what can you do if you are harassed?

Buy an answer phone so that you can screen incoming calls. These can be purchased in such stores as Argos, Dixons and if you cannot afford to purchase it out right you could buy it from a catalogue such as Littlewoods or Kays.

If your telephone number is not known to creditors then dial 141 before making calls to them. This is service offered by BT to withhold your number from the person you are calling. Contact your service provider to see if they can bar specific telephone numbers. By doing this you can block calls from annoying creditors who call you at ridiculous times in the night. Some creditors have been know to phone at 6am on a Sunday morning or 3am on a Wednesday morning.

Keep a record of all the telephone calls, including the ones you make. Note the date, time, name of the person to whom you spoke with, what was said and the company from which they are calling. Mark down what day it is because it may be reasonable to telephone you on a weekday, but 8.20 in the morning on a Sunday is not acceptable.

If a creditor cannot contact you by telephone then their only recourse is to write to you. Therefore, keep copies of all your letters to and from creditors for reference purposes. This can help you at a later date.

Will the Police get involved?

Only if it becomes a serious offence such as violence, blackmail or fraud will the Police normally get involved. Such as if a bailiff was to come around your house and smash your place up, maybe punch you in the face, then the Police would get involved for sure. Also if the bailiff was to stalk you to get back the money you owed on your credit card or loan.

What legislation is there that helps me?

Section 4A - Public Order Act 1986.

Section 40 - Administration of Justice Act 1970.

Section 1 & 2 - Malicious Communications Act 1988.

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997, (“the Act”) the provisions of this Act are quite complicated so I have detailed the most interesting bits.

The Act was introduced to deal with stalking offences, however, Section 1 can be applied to creditors harassing borrowers whereby a person is guilty of this offence if they pursue a course of conduct that they know is harassment of another. The debtor would need to prove that it had happened more than once.

The Act also allows a borrower to issue civil proceedings, through the Courts and if the claimant is successful then damages may be awarded for any financial loss and anxiety caused by the harassment and hassle.

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