What Should You Do About Debt Harassment?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Timothy Tonkin with Phillips Law Group.
Feeling harassed by debt collectors and credit card companies can be extremely overwhelming. If you are being repeatedly contacted by creditors, it’s probably time to talk to a financial advisor or bankruptcy attorney. Bankruptcy is a type of court proceeding in which a judge examines the assets and liabilities of a person filing for bankruptcy to decide if that person’s debts should be discharged.
If you qualify for bankruptcy, there is a good chance your debts could be forgiven or reduced. It is also important to note that debt collectors are required to follow certain rules regarding how and when they contact you after you file for bankruptcy. To learn more about debt harassment or to discuss your financial situation, reach out to a bankruptcy attorney.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), debt collectors must abide by the following rules:
- Debt collectors are allowed to contact you via phone calls, text messages, emails, or letters.
- Debt collectors are not allowed to talk to anyone else about your debt except you, your spouse, or your attorney unless for the sole purpose of securing your contact information.
- Debt collectors must send a written “validation notice” within five days of their initial contact with you; this notice must contain information including how much money is owed, the name of the creditor the money is owed to, and instructions for what to do if you think the debt does not belong to you.
- If you do not think the debt is yours, you can send a letter to the debt collector asking for verification. As long as this occurs within 30 days of the initial contact, the collector is required to provide proof of the debt before they can contact you again.
- Debt collectors are not allowed to lie about the amount of money you owe.
- Debt collectors are not allowed to lie about being attorneys or government representatives.
- Debt collectors are not allowed to claim that you will be arrested or otherwise have legal action taken against you unless it is true.
- Debt collectors are not allowed to threaten you with harm, use profanity in their communications with you, or use phone calls to harass you.
- Debt collectors cannot demand interest, fees, or other charges on top of the owed debt unless the additional fees were included in the original contract or state law.
- Debt collectors cannot deposit a post-dated check early.
- Debt collectors cannot threaten to or seize your property, unless they have first gone through the proper legal channels.
- Debt collectors must allow you to control which debts your payments apply to, and cannot apply a payment to a debt that you do not believe is yours.
These rules are laid out in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. They cover credit card debt, auto loans, medical bills, student loans, mortgage, and other household debts, but they do not cover business debt.
You can ask them to stop.
If you are facing repeated harassment from debt collectors, it is important to note that you are allowed to ask them to stop. The FTC recommends making yourself a copy of the letter before you send it by mail. It’s also a good idea to pay for a return receipt so that you have proof that the collector received your letter. When the debt collector has received your letter, they are only allowed to confirm that they will cease contacting you or to give you notice that specific action is being taken regarding your debts, such as filing a lawsuit.
If a debt collector files a lawsuit against you, reach out to a debt collection attorney as soon as possible.
It is important to involve an attorney if you receive notice of official legal action being taken against you. This creates a buffer between yourself and the collections agency and ensures that you have the necessary experience on your side. It is important to respond to the lawsuit either personally or with the help of your attorney by the time listed in the court documents.