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Financial bullying can take several forms, and it is not uncommon to experience this type of intimidation and harassment, even after you take steps to resolve your debt through a consolidation program. Identifying the financial bullies in your life can help you set boundaries to protect yourself while you work to get out of debt.

What Does it Mean to Be Financially Bullied?

Financial bullying is any unwanted or aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power dynamic. Bullies may try to intentionally harass you so you’ll take actions that are in their best interest.

You can be financially bullied by:

Financial Bullying From Creditors and Debt Collectors

There is no doubt about it, creditors and debt collectors can be aggressive when they are trying to collect a debt. It is common for creditors and debt collectors to use intimidation tactics and financial bullying to pressure borrowers. 

These tactics escalate when you fall behind on payments or pause payments while you work toward resolutions in a debt consolidation program. 

Debt collectors may try to intimidate, coerce, or bully you into paying off debt by repeatedly contacting you over the phone, through emails, via texts, on social media, through direct mail, or by talking to friends or neighbors to try and reach you.

Common Debt Collection Tactics That Bully Consumers:

  • Excessive phone calls, emails, or letters
  • Contacting you on social media
  • Leaving messages with your workplace, friends, family, or neighbors
  • Threatening legal action or taking legal action
  • Using false or misleading information to collect a debt

Is it bullying or illegal harassment? – Knowing the difference:

Not all financial bullying techniques are illegal, but some certainly are. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FCDPA) outlines the legal threshold for harassment. If a creditor or debt collector crosses the line, you could hold them legally responsible. This guide by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can help you determine if a creditor or debt collector has used illegal collection practices with you. 

Financial Bullying During Debt Consolidation

Borrowers who choose to resolve their debt through a debt consolidation program sometimes become the target of bullying tactics from their creditors.

Creditors may try to convince borrowers that programs are not legitimate and manipulate them into leaving and only dealing with the creditor directly. 

They may say misleading things like:

  • “We never work with that company.”
  • “You’re making a big mistake.”
  • “We’ve never heard of that company.”
  • “They’ve never contacted us.”

It’s important to remember that debt collectors and creditors will do everything they can to convince you to pay more for your debt, including misleading you about working with debt consolidation programs. 

How to Deal with Financial Bullying From Creditors

Luckily, there are lots of ways to limit the impact of aggressive or bullying behaviors from creditors during a debt consolidation program. 

Some things you can do include:

  • Block or silence creditor calls on your cell phone
  • Change your contact number with creditors, so they contact your program representatives instead
  • Ask creditors not to contact you in writing 

Financial Bullying Wellness Session

Learn more about financial bullying in this wellness session hosted by Beyond Finance therapists Dr. Erika Rasure and Nathan Astle.

Financial Bullying From a Partner, Friend, or Family Member

When your financial bully is a partner, friend, or family member dealing with the issue may be less straightforward. This type of bullying may entail other types of abuse, both verbal and physical, which is a very serious matter. 

Financial bullying in a close personal relationship can include but is not limited to the following:

  • Controlling when and how money is spent  
  • Dictating what you can buy   
  • Making you ask for money or provide an allowance  
  • Checking your receipts  
  • Making you keep a spending diary 
  • Insisting all economic assets (e.g., savings, house) are in their name
  • Keeping financial information secret

If you believe you are being financially bullied or abused in a personal relationship, we recommend speaking with a therapist, social worker, or mental health professional.

You also can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates. They can help you process the bullying you are experiencing and decide your next steps. 

Check out six ways to deal with a bully in your family here.

The Impact of Financial Bullying

Financial bullying of any kind can lead to feelings of low self-worth, insecurity, fear, and anxiety.  In some cases, bullying can cause or contribute to Acute Financial Stress, a condition that closely mirrors Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

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