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Consumers who owe money to creditors in Miami know that sometimes collection agencies are too aggressive. They call in the middle of the night. They call several times a day. They bother consumers at their workplaces. Though these and other forms of harassment from collections agents are illegal in the state of Florida, many consumers facing financial difficulties deal with this on a regular basis.

Consumers in Miami, though, are far from alone. According to the trade publication Collections & Credit Risk, an estimated 697 collection agencies and creditors were sued in the second half of September. That’s a sizable increase from the 616 creditors and collection agencies that were sued in the first half of the month. And it’s an even bigger jump from the 469 creditors and collection agencies that faced potential lawsuits in the second half of August.

These numbers — Collections & Credit Risk cited data from WebRecon LLC, a Michigan company that relies on data from the U.S. District Courts — show that collection agencies and creditors are getting more aggressive as a growing number of consumers fall behind on their payments.

It’s not surprising that consumers are struggling to pay their bills today. The national unemployment rate remains high. Home values continue to plummet. Gas and food prices seem to always be rising. The odds seem stacked against a growing number of consumers.

Collection agencies, though, are not allowed to take certain steps to recover the money owed to the creditors hiring them. They can’t threaten consumers with potential jail time or with physical violence. They’re not allowed to call consumers several times a day. They aren’t supposed to call late at night, either. These actions are violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Consumers who feel that collection agencies are harassing them need to speak with an attorney. They may have legal options to make the harassment stop.

Source: Collections & Credit Risk, “Lawsuits Against Collection Agencies, Creditors Spike,” Oct. 17, 2011