Dealing with Debt Collection Harassment
Federal law prohibits harassment by collection agencies and collection attorneys. The Federal law applies only to collection agencies but some state laws apply to the actual creditors. You can find a thorough explanation of your rights here. If you are being harassed by debt collectors, you should consider the following:
Send a “Cease Letter”. A simple strategy to stop collection calls is to write the collector requesting that they stop all contact with you regarding the debt. Federal law prohibits collection agencies from contacting you after you make this request. Remember that Federal law does not apply to creditors collecting their own debts but many of them will stop calling you if you send them this letter. You can find an example of a “Cease Letter” here. It is very important to keep a copy of the letter and send it by certified mail, return receipt requested. This will give you proof that the collector received your letter. Your letter should identify the account number and name of the creditor, describe any harassing contacts, state that your letter is not intended to acknowledge that you owe the money and specifically request that the collector stop contacting you further about the account. You should keep a record of any letters or phone calls you receive after sending the “Cease” letter.
The Lawyer’s Letter. You do not need an attorney to send the “Cease Letter” but if your letter is unsuccessful in stopping the collector’s calls, a lawyer’s letter usually will be successful. Members of LegalShield should contact their provider law firm to request that their firm send a “Cease Letter” on their behalf.
Negotiate with the Creditor. Before your account is sent to a debt collection agency, it is easier to negotiate reduced payments on your account with the creditor. Be careful to not offer more in monthly payments than you can afford. When making payments, send your payments via check or money order. We do not recommend giving out your bank or credit card account numbers.
Raise Complaints about Billing Errors. When a collection letter contains a mistake, you can write to request a correction. When you are first informed of a debt by a collection agency, they must inform you of your right to dispute the debt. We strongly encourage you to do so within thirty (30) days of the date you first receive notice of the alleged debt. The collector must stop attempts to collect the debt while it investigates he validity of the debt. Sometimes they are unable to validate the debt and will stop collection efforts.
Complain to a Government Agency. Don’t take abusive calls and tactics by collectors lying down. If you’re a LegalShield member, you should call your provider law firm for active assistance in fighting abusive collection practices. You can also file a complaint against the collector with a government agency. The Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is responsible for enforcing Federal laws governing debt collectors. You can check out the complaint history for a particular collector here. You can also submit a complaint against the collector with the Bureau.
Bankruptcy. Filing bankruptcy triggers the “automatic stay” provisions of the bankruptcy law. Bankruptcy may make it possible for you to 1) eliminate the legal obligation to pay most or all of your debts. This is called a “discharge” of debts. It is designed to give you a fresh financial start; 2) Stop foreclosure on your house or mobile home and allow you an opportunity to catch up on missed payments. (Bankruptcy does not, however, automatically eliminate mortgages and other liens on your property without payment.); 3) Prevent repossession of a car or other property, or force the creditor to return property even after it has been repossessed; 4) Stop wage garnishment, debt collection harassment, and similar creditor actions to collect a debt: 5) Restore or prevent termination of utility service; and 6) Allow you to challenge the claims of creditors who have committed fraud or who are otherwise trying to collect more than you really owe. There are certain steps that you must take before you can file a bankruptcy. You should consult with an attorney. You can find a 12-part series about bankruptcy on our Facebook page.
If you are a LegalShield member, you can get help in dealing with debt collectors by calling your provider law firm. Call us at (800) 375-3089.