“Hmm. That bag is on sale! It will look great with the shoes I got last week. Oh. They also have a scarf on a huge discount. I need that for when I go on vacation in the East Coast next winter. Good thing, I have my credit card with me.”
How many of us were attracted to those bold red signs that shout, “Sale!” Who can resist the good deals and the idea of saving money for stuff you do not really need now? You are not alone. People have the propensity for FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out. And then the bills arrive and you find out, you do not have enough cash to pay them all. You have been shoving them under the dresser drawer, thinking, paying them off can wait. Now they are piling up. Congratulations! You are a proud owner of a lot of stuff you bought on sale but you are close to financial ruin.
Soon, the unpaid mountain of debt will give way to unwanted phone calls from the bill collectors. Much worse, unpaid debt is a lawsuit waiting to happen.
First off, you want to put a stop to the irritating phone calls from the bill collectors. Here are some tips to keep your sanity when the bill collectors start calling.
1) Face the music.
Stop ignoring the problem. Accept that you have a financial issue while it is still in its infancy stage. Although you are aware that it is not possible to settle your bills, what is important is that you acknowledge the debt. Do not wait for the debt to be endorsed to a collection agency. Get in touch with your creditor and tell them that you cannot pay off your dues and that endorsing your account to a collection agency will not make you be able to settle them sooner. But, it should be clear that you must reach an agreement on your payment deadline. Coming up with a repayment plan is a smart move to let your creditors know that running away from your financial obligations is the last thing on your mind.
2) Do something to stop the harassment.
If an agreement between you and your creditor has not been reached, there is a great chance that your debt will be endorsed to a collection agency. Worst case scenario, your account will end up with one of those collection agencies that tend to harass the debtors. You will not want that. But, if this does happen, you can write a letter of request to make the collector stop contacting you. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), as soon as the debt collection agencies and attorneys get your letter, they are prohibited from contacting you again. In your letter, specify any illegal steps taken by the collector.
Under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, debt collectors are prohibited from doing the following illegal acts:
- Repeatedly or continuously call you to annoy, abuse, or harass you or any other person who took the call.
- Call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless otherwise agreed that they can call beyond these hours).
- Call at times that they know or should know are inconvenient.
- Ask you to pay extra fees that are not in your original credit or loan agreement.
- Call a third party such as relatives or neighbors to discuss your debts, unless you have expressly given permission.
- Call you at your workplace knowing your employer does not approve or when there was already a verbal or written advice not to call you at work.
- Engage in false, deceptive, or misleading conduct.
- Calling you without introducing themselves.
- Use obscene, abusive, or profane language, including derogatory or insulting remarks.
- Threaten to use violence or cause bodily harm if you do not pay up.
- Threaten action they cannot or will not take, such as sue or file charges against you, garnish wages, take property, have you fired from your job, or ruin your credit.
- Publish your name in a list of people who refuse to pay their debts.
- Use any communication, language or symbols on envelopes or postcards that indicate that the sender is from a collection agency.
If the collection agency is violating any of these laws, you may file a legal case against them and demand restitution for damages, your lawyer’s fees, plus an additional $1,000.00.
Send the original letter by registered mail and pay for “return receipt” so that you can have a copy of the letter duly signed and received by the collector. Keep a copy in your files and send a copy to the following office:
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Once you mail this letter, the collection agency will have only two opportunities to contact you: to acknowledge receipt of the letter and state that there will be no further contact or to tell you that they are filing a legal case against you. Keep in mind that the FDCPA only applies to collection agencies and attorneys. In-house collection departments are not covered by this law. Rest assured, a lot of creditors will honor the request.
3) Seek legal advice from one of the best attorneys in Phoenix.
If the letter requesting the collectors to stop calling you remain unheeded, it is time to take the next step and that is to get the services of an attorney who will send a letter in your behalf. Such a letter will most likely to make the harassment stop. Let one of our experienced attorneys at Phoenix Fresh Start Bankruptcy assist you. If a lawyer represents you, neither the collection agency nor your creditor’s attorney may contact you directly. They can only deal with you through your attorney. In addition to being your spokesperson, your attorney may also aid you in pushing for legal claims under the FDCPA. While it may cost you to get a lawyer, it will stop the harassment of your creditors and bill collectors who never honored your letter requesting them to stop contacting you.
4) Consider filing for bankruptcy.
It may be a drastic move but if it can stop the harassment of collection agencies, petitioning for bankruptcy may be something you may consider. As soon as you file the initial papers for bankruptcy, you are automatically protected from any collection activity. Any continuation of collection efforts must be approved by the bankruptcy court. Most of the time, the bankruptcy court does not approve requests from collection agencies to demand payment for unsecured debts like credit card debts, utility bills, and medical debt. You will discover that filing for bankruptcy will give you relief from the harassment of creditors. It is a very effective way to stop them from contacting you.
However, you must bear in mind that filing for bankruptcy is a decision that should not be taken lightly. Professional legal advice is critical to prevent serious life-changing consequences a bankruptcy filing may bring. A bankruptcy filing stays on your records for up to nine years and may affect your credit rating. If you are only concerned about harassment of collection agencies, you must first consider other options available and look at bankruptcy as your last resort.
Talk to our experienced lawyers at Phoenix Fresh Start Bankruptcy. We will be glad to explore the next best step you can take to free yourself from the harassment of bill collectors.