Nobody likes dealing with debt collectors, especially the pushy ones. If you’ve had the misfortune of having to deal with the harassing calls keep reading to pick up some tips on how to find your way free of them.
First things first.
Collection agency vs Creditor
It is important to make a distinction between third party collection or collection agencies and creditors. Both of these are debt collectors, but a collection agency is a third party that collects the debt for a creditor and a creditor collects debt using its own dedicated team or departments known as in-house debt collectors.
Can debt collectors do that?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the main piece of federal legislation enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (the country’s consumer protection agency). The FDCPA specifically prohibits abusive, unfair or deceptive practices. Both, collection agencies and creditors are ruled by the FDCPA. However, some laws may be different for creditors as some state laws vary from state to state.
What they can’t do
Among other things, debt collectors cannot threaten you, use obscene language, publish your name in general publications, advertise that they will resell your debt to pressure you to pay, call you repeatedly (even if you don’t pick up), falsely represent that they are affiliated with the US government, misrepresent facts, tell you falsely that they are lawyers, that the non-payment of the debt will result in your arrest or imprisonment or that they will sue you if they do not intend to do so. Debt collectors cannot garnish your bank accounts or wages, take your property, put a lien on your property or imprison you themselves. Even if they intend to bring legal action against you, these actions are the court of law’s jurisdiction and only a judge, through a judgment by the court, can adjudicate such remedies.
Also, collectors cannot contact you at times or places they know or should know you are not allowed to receive calls of this nature, such as at your work or after hours. Two key points here are “they should know” and “you are not allowed”. This means the collector is presumed to have the common sense to know what companies may “allow” you to receive these calls and what companies may not. As common sense isn’t often the case, it is imperative that you let the collector know not to contact you at work. ‘More on that below.
What they can do
Collectors must disclose their identity, they must give you your debt details, such as name of original creditor and debt amount. They may bring legal action against you, and they may request your credit report.
A debt collector contacted me now what?
First, be confident that you have rights and that there are agencies ready to enforce the law and support you. Know that you have resources and even may be able to sue the collector yourself! Also, keep in mind that many others undergo debt collection and you are not alone.
Be calm if contacted by a debt collector. Be assertive but not confrontational, be proactive in informing yourself about what your debtors and debts really are before you think you may be contacted. Talk to your collector at least once! (We cannot stress this one enough). You do not have to explain yourself, apologize or come up with a repayment plan right there; but listen to what the debt collector has to say.
Put it in writing!
After the first call, you can reply within 30 days with a letter either, disputing the debt (or part of it), asking for more information, requesting that the debt collector stop calling you (yes really!), request that a debt collector contact you through your lawyer only, or any contact method of your preference, or request the original creditor’s information. A collector can only contact you after your “do not contact” request to let you know they will no longer contact you or that lawful action such as a lawsuit will be taken. These letters are only to be used with debt collection agencies and cannot stop legal action against you. If you are being sued contact a consumer-law lawyer.
Yes, collection companies must stop contacting you until they provide you with verification of the debt, the information you requested or investigate any disputes. If they cannot provide verification of the debt they must stop collection efforts on the account. This can buy you time to evaluate your options and come up with a plan. Remember to keep copies and records of all communications.
Lastly, if you suspect any violations and you think you are being harassed you can submit a complaint online through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and possibly bring legal action against the collector.
When dealing with collectors, common sense is important. If a collector’s action does not seem right to you, it is likely that it isn’t. Getting rid of debt is a process. Be confident that you can take on the task and break it into smaller actionable items.
Need more resources?
We’re here to help. Contact us at Avva Financial.