Tips on stopping creditor harassment and debt collector harassment
When you have stacks of bills piling up, one of the most frustrating things can be calls from creditors and debt collectors. In order to stop the harassment, your best defense is to know how to handle the situation and know your rights. This blog will quickly go through the steps that may help you stop the calls.
Who Are You Dealing With?
First, you need to know who you are dealing with. Is your debt with a creditor or a debt collector? Most people do not even know there is a difference. A creditor is the original owner of the debt and is not a company that primarily handles debt collection. A debt collector is a third party company that handles the collection of the debt that you owe—these collectors can be agencies that have bought the debt and also attorneys that have been hired to resolve the debt.
Second, look at all of your debts. Do you have a lot of unsecured debt? Are you behind on your mortgage or vehicle payments? Do you have creditors that are seeking judgments against your property? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you may want to speak with a lawyer about your options concerning filing bankruptcy. Contact the Lam Law Firm to set up your initial consultation with our office.
If this is not a viable option for you, we have a few steps that may help you alleviate some of your creditor stress.
1. Prepare yourself to answer the phone. Your mantra should be “I will not be bullied.” It is best to assume that they are not going to be polite and that they will not want to work with you, but that doesn’t mean they can control you. When they are impolite, don’t lose your temper.
2. Know your rights! There are things that creditors cannot do. They cannot call you before 8 am or after 9pm unless you give them permission. They also cannot call on Sundays or statutory holidays. When you first talk to them, you can set your boundaries. Tell them that they cannot contact your family or employer. Or if you do not want to be called, tell them that any further contact has to be through mail. Also be sure to follow up any conversations with a letter (certified) so that you have proof that they were given this information.
3. Make sure they have proven the debt. Has the creditor sent you a notice and proof of the debt? If they cannot provide documentation that you owe the debt or that they own the debt, then ask them to stop contacting you about it. It does not matter if you know that you owe the money…make them prove it. This protects you! Sometimes a third party company will buy the debt and never gets the proof of the original debt.
4. Stop the harassment and threats. In states that allow wage garnishments, creditors cannot do so without a court ordered judgment. In SC, the only entities allowed to garnish wages are government agencies. So your creditors cannot take their “cut” out of your paycheck. They also cannot threaten to file a lawsuit against you unless they mean to go through with it. If they do, ask them to stop and again send them a letter to make sure they got the message. And although there is nothing to stop them from being mean, know that they cannot be vulgar, threaten violence or arrest, or lie.
5. Be honest about your situation. If they have proven the debt and you cannot pay it back at the moment, tell them the truth! Let them know why (loss of job, hospitalization, etc.) and tell them an approximate date when you may be able to work something out. This should stop incessant phone calls and could help prevent any future lawsuits.
6. Work out a deal. If they have proven the debt and you would like to resolve the situation, some creditors and debt collectors are willing to work with you. Can you do a larger upfront lump sum and smaller payments? Can you pay back a percentage of the total amount that would satisfy the debt? For example, if you owe $1,000.00, sometimes a creditor will offer to settle the debt for $700.00 if you can pay it all at once. If it is a third party company, odds are that they bought the debt for less than what is owed and you may be able to settle as long as they make a profit.
7. When in doubt seek help. If you feel that you are still being harassed after you have talked to a creditor or sent them notice, file a complaint with an attorney general in your state as well as the Federal Trade Commission. Under the Federal Debt Collection Act, a debt collector has to follow strict guidelines when attempting to contact a consumer about money owed. And as always, the tips above are intended as information only and should not be considered legal advice. You should consult your attorney if you have any questions about anything discussed in this blog.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained on this page is for general information, only. It is not intended to be legal advice, nor should you make legal decisions based on this information. Please consult one of our attorneys to see how the law applies to your particular situation.