Debt Collectors. I think it is pretty safe to say that nobody loves receiving calls from debt collectors. One thing to understand about debt collectors, they are in business to do one thing, collect money. They can be aggressive and make your life incredibly stressful. Knowing what your rights are when it comes to these special people, can relieve some of that stress and help you get your accounts settled or removed.
Around 2008, I had been working to get my financial life back together. I had completely destroyed my credit and had been feeling the weight of the debts crushing me. It seemed as if I was receiving calls from debt collectors throughout my entire day. They would call my parents’ house trying to get information on how they could get a hold of me, using different excuses or saying that I owed them money. Sometimes, I would even receive calls at work. The people that would call were so vicious and would make threats of garnishing my wages or telling me that they were going to sue me to get the money I owed them. I would continue to tell them that I didn’t have any money and that I could barely afford to make ends meet at all. The situation continued to get worse, and I began ignoring all calls that would come to me unless I knew the number. I had no clue what to do or what I could do to make it all stop.
Have you found yourself in a similar situation? I am sure that many of you have played the same game of ignoring phone calls from debt collectors as I did. You get the phone calls pressuring you to pay, even though you can’t afford it. You have no clue what your rights are in these situations and so you get bullied into doing something that you shouldn’t have agreed to.
The key is to understand what your rights are! There is a federal law called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that requires you to be treated fairly by debt collectors. They can continue to try to collect, but the law gives them certain limits in how they can collect from you. There are five main things you should know about when it comes to dealing with debt collectors:
After a debt collector has contacted you for the first time, they must send you a written notice within five days, telling you the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money; the amount of money you owe; and even what to do if you want to dispute the debt.
- Keeping Information Private
Debt collectors cannot contact other people who are not a co-signer on your debt and disclose information about it, unless it is your spouse. They can contact your family and neighbors to find out how to get a hold of you, but that is as far as they can go.
- Contacting You
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), a collector can contact you by mail, phone, in person or even a fax. What some people don’t know, is that they cannot contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. your time unless you tell them it is OK to do so. If they call you at work, you can simply tell them that your employer doesn’t allow you to accept calls of that nature. Just make sure that you make a note of when you informed the creditor to keep a record. If you hire an attorney to represent you, then you can inform them that they need to discuss it with your attorney, not you.
- False Statements and Harassment
If you have ever dealt with a debt collector, then you probably know that they will say just about anything to get you to pay and it is not uncommon for them to lie to you. Just remember, there are laws that protect you, and it gives them limits on what they can say and do. If you are like I was, I didn’t understand what my rights were, so I just let it happen.They cannot threaten with some sort of action that they cannot take. For instance, they cannot garnish your wages until a court has ordered that to happen. And they cannot misrepresent the amount due. These are forms of false statements and there are many more. They cannot threaten you with any violence, use obscene language or swear at you. They can’t repeatedly call you to annoy you either. These are all forms of harassment that are not permitted.
- Stopping Debt Collectors
Once a debt collector gets a hold of your phone number, it seems like you get a phone call just about every day. You can of course ignore the phone call, or answer it and hang up, but there is a more effective way to handle it. You can simply send them a letter stating they if they want to communicate with you, then they must do it in a letter. When I first learned I could just send a letter to make the phone calls stop, I contacted almost every single debt collector. If you are getting a ton of phone calls, it may make sense to write a “cease and desist” type letter.
We don’t need to stand idly by and let debt collectors walk all over us. By understanding what our rights are when dealing with a debt collector, we can be better prepared to fight back when they are not following the law. Take the time to read more about the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act to find out other ways that you are protected. When we know our rights, we can be better protected. And as they say on G.I. JOE, “Knowing is half the battle.”
Question: How many times do you get contacted by debt collectors? What are some of the ways you deal with the debt collectors? You can leave a comment by clicking here.