Everyone borrows money at some point in life. However, after borrowing, things may not turn out as you expect and paying back the money can become difficult. You may even fall behind on your payments and end up with debt. If this is the case, you will likely receive calls from debt collectors.
Receiving calls from debt collectors can be stressful, but there are some things you can do to make the process easier. You can book a free consultation from this site, and this guide will show you how to deal with debt collectors in three ways.
Verify It’s a Legitimate Debt
The first step when contacted by a collector is to verify the debt is real and you are responsible for paying it. Debt collectors purchase old debt accounts for pennies on the dollar, and errors are common. Don’t assume it’s valid – make them prove it.
Ask the collector to provide official validation in writing that includes the original creditor’s name, the amount owed, and your account number. They must comply within 5 days under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Review the documentation carefully and compare to your records. Dispute in writing any discrepancies immediately.
Halt Harassment and Communication
Once you’ve confirmed the debt is legitimate, take back control of communication. Collector calls and letters can be aggressive and annoying. Don’t tolerate threats, insults, or excessive phoning designed to push you.
Send a cease and desist letter demanding they only contact you in writing. Under the FDCPA, if you say to stop calling, they legally must comply. Block numbers that continue to call. Log date, times, frequency, and details of any further contact.
Keep written records of all correspondence and conversations. Be firm in stating they can only reach you by postal mail or email if you prefer. Report harassment immediately to the FTC and consumer watchdog groups.
Negotiate a Reduced Settlement
Avoid giving debt collectors access to your bank account information. Work out a lump sum payment instead. Get any verbal offer in writing before sending money.
The original creditor likely charged-off the account and sold it for less than full value. Collectors may accept a low settlement offer since any money recovered is profit.
Start around 25% of the amount owed, and negotiate up slowly from there. Get everything in a written agreement signed by both parties. Keep records of payments and follow up letters.
Once paid in full, request written confirmation the settled debt will be reported to credit bureaus as “Paid in full for less than the full balance”. This helps your credit score recover more quickly.
Know Your Rights
Debt collectors can harass you if you don’t know your rights. You have the right to:
- Request validation of the debt within 30 days of being contacted by the collector
- Dispute the debt if you believe it is inaccurate
- Request that the collector cease all communication with you
If a debt collector is harassing you, you can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You can also refer to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for more information on your rights. This act has a clear outline of your rights as a debtor and protects you from unfair practices.
If the debt collectors violate your rights in any way, you can file a complaint with CFPB. Talk to your attorney to understand how to file a lawsuit against the debt collector.
You should always remember that you have rights even when you owe money. Do not let debt collectors harass or intimidate you. Stand up for your rights and take action if your rights are violated.
Hire a Consumer Protection Attorney
For more aggressive collectors and continued harassment, consider hiring a consumer protection attorney. They can take over communication and ensure federal guidelines are followed.
The right legal counsel knows how to hold collectors accountable for wrongdoing. They can spot any violative practices and represent you in official complaints or lawsuits.
Look for an attorney experienced specifically in consumer law and debt collection defense. Many offer free consultations and affordable rates. The cost is often worth the peace of mind.
File Bankruptcy as a Last Resort
As a final option, personal bankruptcy may be an appropriate path to discharge unmanageable debt if other methods fail. This is a major legal process best navigated with an attorney.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy wipes eligible debts completely away, while Chapter 13 restructures a repayment plan over 3-5 years. Considerations include protecting assets, impacts to credit score, and long-term financial goals.
Pursue bankruptcy only after careful thought and exploring all alternatives. While it provides a fresh start, bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 7-10 years.
Stand up for your rights when dealing with aggressive debt collectors. Don’t tolerate illegal harassment or intimidation tactics. Be proactive in verifying debts and controlling communication on your terms.
Consider negotiating reasonable lump sum settlements that save money and help improve your credit faster. If collectors won’t cooperate, leverage consumer protection laws and attorneys to your advantage.
Approach debt problems calmly, armed with knowledge and a plan. Protect yourself from mistreatment while taking responsibility for your financial obligations. With patience and perseverance, you can resolve issues and move forward on solid financial ground.
What should I do if a debt collector calls me?
Politely ask for their name, company, mailing address, and validation of the debt. Say you will only discuss the matter after receiving written documentation.
Can a debt collector contact my employer?
Only with your permission. Otherwise, it’s illegal without a court order. Report it immediately to the FTC if they do.
How long can a debt collector try to collect on a debt?
The statute of limitations varies by state, ranging from 3-10 years typically. Check your state laws.
What if I’m sued by a debt collector?
Don’t ignore legal notices. Seek help from a consumer law attorney or legal aid clinic to protect your rights. Appear on your court date or you may lose by default.
What debts can a collector try to collect on?
Most including medical bills, credit cards, personal loans, utilities, rent, etc. Student loans and child support cannot be sold to collectors.
Can I stop a debt collector from contacting my relatives?
Yes. Send a cease and desist letter demanding no further contact with family or friends about your debt.
How do I report illegal debt collector practices?
File a complaint with the FTC and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau detailing the violative conduct. Contact your state attorney general’s office for help too.
Will paying a collection account help my credit?
Yes, a paid collection is better than an unpaid one. A “paid in full” status will show progress and help improve your credit score over time.