Debt collectors can be annoying – calling at all hours, contacting relatives and employers, making you feel like a deadbeat.

It’s not like you don’t know you’re in debt and need to be reminded constantly. It’s not like you wouldn’t pay the money back if you could (unless, of course, it is like that).

You can’t blame them for wanting their money back -- or for wanting to earn a commission for getting someone else’s money back, as is often the case. You do owe the money, they are just doing their jobs, and you wouldn’t have gotten the loan or taken possession of the property in the first place if the obliging parties had thought you were going to welsh on the deal.

And there are ways to avoid the seeming harassment. Don’t answer the phone. Answer the phone in a funny voice and say it’s not you. Get an answering machine, get caller ID, get a new phone number, switch to Skype or instant messaging, etc.

In West Virginia, there are laws against harassment by debt collectors, but the laws are carefully worded to protect the rights of creditors as well as the debtors. Being asked to pay a debt is not, in itself, harassment.

Sadie White of Boone County seems not to have understood this. You can hardly blame her for not wanting to be pestered by debt collectors, especially after her husband committed suicide five years ago during a standoff with police and left her to deal with their debt on her own. She subsequently had to declare bankruptcy.

But filing a class action suit (against creditors trying to collect decedents’ debts outside of probate) was not the solution, as the judge’s summary judgment in favor of the defendants affirmed.

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