Many are already getting a great deal of stress from things like medical bills and student loans, especially during this pandemic. Add to that the harassment and abusive tactics employed by collection agencies and it can be hard for a debtor to go about their daily lives.
The best way to stop collection calls is to file bankruptcy. This places an automatic stay which stops any collection effort. However, we know that making the decision is not easy, as it stays long on your credit report and harms your credit score. Contact a bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options.
If you’re the victim of unfair debt collection practices, here are some steps you can take to make life easier.
Steps to Stop Collection Efforts
1. Keep Records
Keep all correspondence, account documentation, and statements. Note the collector’s name, call back number, and the company involved. These notes will be invaluable if you have to make a complaint or file a lawsuit against the collector.
The collection agency will usually record all phone calls with you. Federal law and many states allow for recording the conversation without the other’s consent, although it is illegal in others. Learn about the one-party consent law in your state before proceeding.
2. Know Your Rights
Read about the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and take note of the violations to know that such acts are prohibited when collecting a debt. Know that you can negotiate with your creditors and settle your debts for the amount owed.
You can learn more about debt collection laws on the websites for the office of the state attorney general, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the Federal Trade Commission.
3. Tell the Creditor to Stop Contacting You
Yes, you can simply tell these collectors to stop and leave you alone, but there are steps to do appropriately. Before doing so, it is paramount that you know the consequences of your decision.
Chances are that the collector gives the account to a lawyer. If a law firm has the account, they must contact you with any papers they file. However, bear in mind that no one has any obligation to warn you if and when the account is being sent to the attorney for legal proceedings.
There is a chance that you won’t get informed of the suit, either through outdated contact info or simply mailing problems. If you never answer the suit, the court can enter a default judgment against you, which is much harder to defend than lawsuits.
The collector may also sell the account to another debt buyer. When another collector enters the scene, you will have to start from scratch to verify the debt and send a new cease and desist letter.
If these consequences are outweighed by your peace of mind, these are the steps you should take:
- Send a written letter to the collector demanding that the collector cease and desist from further communications with you, your relatives, your employer, or anyone else the collector may be contacting.
- Send it by certified mail so that the recipient has to sign for it. That way, if the collector continues to contact you, each instance of contact is yet another violation of the FDCPA.
4. Ask for Debt Verification
Once they’ve contacted you, the debt collection agent has five days to give you the following information in writing:
- The name of the creditor to whom the debt is now owed;
- The amount of the debt;
- That you have 30 days to dispute the validity of the debt;
If you don’t dispute, the collector will assume that the debt is valid.
If you tell them in writing asking for the contact details and name of the original creditor, the collector will provide it. You may find a sample letter on the internet.
If you dispute the debt, they will send you information for your inspection and verification. They also must stop any collection activity until they send these for validation.
Why Is Disputing the Debt Important?
When the original creditor cannot collect the debt, they usually sell the debt to a collection agency. Debt buyers make their money by getting the borrower to pay more than they actually owe.
When you dispute, the current owner must look into the debt’s account. This can give you some breathing room. This also gives you a chance to check your records for proof that you owe a different amount or that you already paid it to the original creditor.
What If the Creditor Cannot Validate the Debt?
If they fail to verify the debt or provide the information requested, the collector is violating the FDCPA. The more they violate it, the more you can come out ahead in the end.
Other violations you can take note of are as follows:
- Charging an obscene amount more than what you owe,
- Continued telephone calls or other communication while the debt is disputed,
If debt collectors are harassing and calling you non-stop, you can stop their collection processes by declaring bankruptcy, which places an automatic stay that stops these activities from happening. At Phoenix Fresh Start Bankruptcy Attorneys, we can discuss your bankruptcy options and other alternatives to bankruptcy so you can make an informed decision about your financial future. Call us today at 602-598-5075 to get seize your chances on a fresh financial start!