If you’re in debt and have missed payments or are unable to keep up with other expenses due to the debt, you most likely are well aware of this. When creditors start calling to remind you about how much you owe or how far behind you are, the stress can really begin to build and push you to make some changes. As you come up with a plan for moving forward, you’ll need to communicate with these bill collectors, and it’s good to know your rights and their responsibilities.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was put into place to protect consumers from harassment and spells out what creditors are and are not permitted to do in their debt collection efforts. Debt collectors may not call you daily, or even weekly, and most will call once a month, around when your bill is due. They are allowed to call between the hours of 8am and 9pm, and may call you at work, unless your employer objects. When calling, a debt collector must state who they are and why they are calling, and they may not inflate the amount you owe or lie about the consequences of not making a payment. It is never acceptable for a creditor to be abusive in any way, including using profanity or making threats of violence.
You’re Not in This Alone
Most employees follow these guidelines, but there will always be people who try to push the limits. If you have an encounter with a bill collector who you believe has broken the law, you do have recourse. Be sure to document each time they call and what transpired. Your first step would be to tell them to stop calling you. This will usually stop the calls, but you will still be responsible for the debt. This may prompt the creditor to file a lawsuit against you. If you decide to file bankruptcy at this point, the automatic stay will go into effect, which not only stops the lawsuit, but also prohibits the creditor from contacting you to collect the debt. If your creditor continues their efforts after being asked to stop, you may need to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, which monitors collection agencies.
I don’t advise my clients to ignore calls from creditors, especially when the employee is simply doing their job and following proper procedures. The calls may be stressful for you, but by making the effort to communicate and explain your circumstances, you may be able to find a solution other than bankruptcy. The creditor may be able to work out a reduced payment plan, and some companies and organizations are even willing to forgive a portion of some debts or lower interest rates to make payments more manageable. If you have questions about your debt and dealing with creditors, give me a call. I’d be glad to offer you my professional advice and point you in the best direction to build a more secure financial future.