Is it legal for creditors and collection agencies to call me and send me letters all of the time?

Maybe. Even if you owe money, it is illegal for a creditor to harass you through the mail or over the phone. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) makes certain conduct by creditors illegal. Any of the following tactics are illegal: 

•Communicating to third parties, such as your relatives, employers, friends, or neighbors, about a debt unless you or a court have given the collector permission to do so. Collectors are only allowed to contact attorneys, contract creditors, credit reporting agencies, co-signers, and your spouse. If creditors speak to anyone else about you, it can only be to request your address or telephone number so they can contact you. 
•Communicating with you at unusual or inconvenient times or places. The times 8:00am to 9:00pm (in your time zone) are generally considered to be convenient unless the creditor is aware you work at night. You can dictate what times are convenient by sending a letter to the debt collector limiting the days and times that telephone calls are convenient. You must state that all other times are inconvenient. (Ex. Please call only Monday through Friday between 1pm and 5pm all other days and times are inconvenient) All communications should be sent certified mail return receipt requested and a copy of the letter kept for your records.  
•Contacting you at work if the collector should know that the employer prohibits personal calls, or contacting you at other inconvenient places, such as a friend’s house or the hospital. 
•Contacting you if you are represented by a lawyer, unless the lawyer gives permission for the communication or fails to respond to the collector’s attempts to contact him or her. 
•Contacting you after you write a letter asking the collector to cease communications. This type of letter is often called a cease letter. After receiving the letter, the collector is only allowed to acknowledge the letter and to notify you about actions the creditor or collector may take. 
•If the debt collector communicates with you using an automated dialing system, computer or electronic devise, such communication may violate West Virginia law. 
•Using obscene, derogatory, or insulting remarks. 
•Publishing your name in a newspaper. 
•Telephoning you repeatedly and frequently or at times known to be inconvenient or annoying to you. (You will have to tell a collector that certain days or times are not convenient. Otherwise calls that come in after 8am and before 9pm are typically deemed reasonable times) 
•Telephoning without disclosing the collector’s identity. 
•Making communications that intimidate, harass, or abuse you, such as a threat to conduct a neighborhood investigation of you or telling you that you should not have children if you cannot afford them. 
•Making false, misleading, or deceptive representations in collecting debts, such as pretending that letters carry legal authority. 
•Falsely representing the character, amount, or legal status of a debt, or of services rendered or compensation owed.  
•Falsely stating or implying a lawyer’s involvement. 
•Threatening arrest or loss of child custody or benefits. 
•Stating that nonpayment will result in arrest, garnishment, or seizure of property or wages, unless such actions are lawful, and unless the creditor or the collector fully intends to take such action.  
•Threatening to take actions that are illegal or that are not intended. 
•Using any false representation or other deception to collect or to attempt to collect any debt or to obtain information about you. 
•Failing to disclose in communications that the collector is attempting to collect a debt. 
•The failure to clearly disclose the name and full business address of the person to whom the claim has been assigned for collection, or to whom the claim is owed, at the time of making any demand for money. 
•Using unfair or unconscionable means to collect debts. 
•Collecting fees or charges unless expressly authorized by the agreement creating the debt and permitted by law. 
•Any representation that an existing obligation of the consumer may be increased by the addition of attorney’s fees, investigation fees, service fees or any other fees or charges when in fact such fees or charges may not legally be added to the existing obligation 
•Depositing post-dated checks before their date.  
•Causing expense to another party while concealing the purpose of the communication by, for example, making collect telephone calls and sending collect telegrams. 
•Threatening repossession without the legal right to do so, or if the collector has no present intent to do so. 
•Creating the false impression that the collector is an affiliate or agent of the government. 
•Placing a phone call to you or a third party that gives the impression that the call is “urgent” or “an emergency.”  

•Using any communication, language, or symbols on envelopes or postcards that indicate that the sender is in the debt-collection business. 
•Threatening the garnishment of any wages of any person or the taking of other action requiring judicial sanction, without informing the consumer that there must be in effect a judicial order permitting such garnishment or such other action before it can be taken. 
•Failure to mail a written receipt for each payment made on a consumer account or loan. 
•Failure to provide a written statement of the amount of payments made in the last 12 months to a consumer who requests such a statement in writing. 

It is helpful to document each time the creditor illegally contacts you. Keep a pen and paper next to the phone to record all telephone contacts. Make sure to get the name of the person calling, the name and address of the company collecting the debt, the name of the original creditor, account number and amount of debt. Also, save any harassing messages left on an answering machine. If you believe that a creditor has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act by engaging in any of the conduct listed above contact a lawyer to find out how to exercise your rights.  

For more information, see: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692-1692p (2015); W. Va. Code §§ 46A-2-114, 46A-2-124, 46A-2-127, 46A-2-129, 61-3C-14a (2015); National Consumer Law Center, Surviving Debt: A Guide for Consumers (5th ed. 2006).