The collection process begins almost immediately after going past due on your debts. There are ways to avoid the harsh treatment that comes with practices employed by many collection agencies.
First, it is important to understand that it is not a crime to be late on or unable to pay your debt. Contrary to what some collectors threaten, you can’t go to jail. Commercial creditors cannot attach your wages without first obtaining judgment after court proceedings. See the segment from the “Fair Debt Collection Practices Act” below for some of the prohibited collection practices.
Second, never give any debt collector, or anyone on the phone, your personal information. Do not give them your social security number. Never confirm your name, date of birth, phone number, mailing address or any information. Never, under any circumstances, give anyone your bank account or credit card information and authorize them to take money to pay on an account. Never promise to make a payment on account by any means including mailing them a check.
Some of the ways to stop or avoid collection harassment include:
- Be proactive. When you realize that you’re not going to be able to make a payment on time, contact the creditor and ask for a forbearance. Then seek financial and budgeting assistance to try and help manage your debts going forward.
- When anybody calling advises you that the call is being recorded, regardless of the reason, refuse to speak on a recorded line. Tell them “I will not speak on a recorded line”. This is the only response you give no matter how many times and how many ways they try to convince you to talk. Your only response is “I will not speak on a recorded line”. If they refuse to give up simply hang up. ‘
- If you find yourself on a collection call, be courteous and ask the caller for their name, company name, phone number, address and his or her relationship to the primary creditor. If the collector becomes rude, aggressive, abusive or threatening, simply hang up. You don’t have to say goodbye or wait for them to finish their sentence. If they call back again notify the phone company that you are receiving repeated harassing phone calls. You can also call the primary creditor and let them know that their collection agent is being abusive and that you only want to deal with the primary creditor.
- Notify the debt collector in writing that you do not intend to pay the debt and / or that you demand all communication with you cease. See below for further details regarding communications between the debt collector and the consumer. Be aware that if you demand the debt collector cease communications, they can begin legal proceedings. You should seek professional advice on how to manage your situation going forward.
- Filing bankruptcy will stop all collection action immediately.
These are a few of the ways to stop creditor harassment. If you are unable to pay all of your debts on time, there is a broader issue that you need to address. Stopping a debt collector’s abuse will not relieve you of your responsibility to pay the debt. You should seek professional advice to not only stop the harassment, but to resolve your debt issues.
The sooner you address your inability to make monthly payments on time, the sooner your debt will be in control and you can provide yourself and your family a better quality of life.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:
§ 805. Communication in connection with debt collection
(a) Communication with the consumer generally
Without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt —
(1) at any unusual time or place or a time or place known or which should be known to be inconvenient to the consumer. In the absence of knowledge of circumstances to the contrary, a debt collector shall assume that the convenient time for communicating with a consumer is after 8 o’clock antemeridian and before 9 o’clock postmeridian, local time at the consumer’s location;
(2) if the debt collector knows the consumer is represented by an attorney with respect to such debt and has knowledge of, or can readily ascertain, such attorney’s name and address, unless the attorney fails to respond within a reasonable period of time to a communication from the debt collector or unless the attorney consents to direct communication with the consumer; or
(3) at the consumer’s place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such communication.
(b) Communication with third parties
Except as provided in section 1692b of this title, without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector, or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, or as reasonably necessary to effectuate a post judgment judicial remedy, a debt collector may not communicate, in connection with the collection of any debt, with any person other than the consumer, his attorney, a consumer reporting agency if otherwise permitted by law, the creditor, the attorney of the creditor, or the attorney of the debt collector.
(c) Ceasing communication
If a consumer notifies a debt collector in writing that the consumer refuses to pay a debt or that the consumer wishes the debt collector to cease further communication with the consumer, the debt collector shall not communicate further with the consumer with respect to such debt, except —
(1) to advise the consumer that the debt collector’s further efforts are being terminated;
(2) to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector or creditor; or
(3) where applicable, to notify the consumer that the debt collector or creditor intends to invoke a specified remedy.
If such notice from the consumer is made by mail, notification shall be complete upon receipt.
(d) “Consumer” defined
For the purpose of this section, the term “consumer” includes the consumer’s spouse, parent (if the consumer is a minor), guardian, executor, or administrator.
15 USC 1692d
§ 806. Harassment or abuse
A debt collector may not engage in any conduct the natural consequence of which is to harass, oppress, or abuse any person in connection with the collection of a debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this section:
(1) The use or threat of use of violence or other criminal means to harm the physical person, reputation, or property of any person.
(2) The use of obscene or profane language or language the natural consequence of which is to abuse the hearer or reader.
(3) The publication of a list of consumers who allegedly refuse to pay debts, except to a consumer reporting agency or to persons meeting the requirements of section 1681a(f) or 1681b(3)1 of this title.
(4) The advertisement for sale of any debt to coerce payment of the debt.
(5) Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.
(6) Except as provided in section 1692b of this title, the placement of telephone calls without meaningful disclosure of the caller’s identity.
15 USC 1692e
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