Dealing with Nasty Debt Collectors
You may (or may not) be delinquent with a debt payment, but debt collectors don’t have carte blanche with regards to how they can hustle the money from you. Some can be rude, make idle (and illegal) threats, and just plain be a pain. But they can only go so far, and it pays to know your rights.
Why is a Debt Collector Calling You?
If a creditor believes you owe them money and they have been unsuccessful in getting it from you, they pass your file on to a debt collector, who in turn receives a percentage of your debt for bugging you to pay it back.
And in an attempt to get you to repay those debts (and consequently receive their commission), some will go too far.
How Far is Too Far?
Debt collectors are expressly not allowed to:
- Call you before 8am or after 8pm
- Threaten to sue you (creditors have the right to sue, not debt collectors)
- Threaten to throw you in jail
- Say they’ll contact your boss
- Call you at work if they know that you’re unable to take calls at work (for example if you are a school teacher)
- Call you at work if they know your employer prohibits incoming personal calls
- Threaten to garnish your wages
- Use any deceptive, unfair, or abusive techniques
They’ve Gone Too Far. What do I Do?
If you have a cowboy debt collector on your back, you don’t have to take their crap. Here’s what you can do:
- Hang up. You don’t have to talk to or reason with them, return their phone calls, or even answer the phone when they call.
- Ask them to sop calling. If you tell them they are causing you distress and that you will resolve the matter directly with your creditor, they are supposed to stop calling.
- Write to them. As usual, it always pays to substantiate something in writing. Get the name and address of the collection agency, and whip out the pen and paper. Reiterate in your letter that they are causing you distress and request them to cease all contact. State the account number of the debt they are trying to collect, that you will resolve the matter directly with the creditors, and threaten to call the Federal Trade Commission if they don’t comply. Once debt collectors receive this letter, they are obligated to stop contacting you.
- Get a Lawyer. This will cost you, but if you are truly in distress it may be worth the piece of mind. Settlements are usually around a thousand dollars plus expenses, but if you can prove that you lost your job or suffered mental trauma as a result of the debt collector’s practices, you may be able to get more.
They Shouldn’t Be Calling me! What now?
If you believe that you are up to date with all your debts, then contact the credit reporting agencies for a copy of your credit report. In it you will find out what the situation is, and if it’s a mistake you can take the necessary measures to fix the problem.
There is nothing worse than being harassed for either a debt you know about and are trying to pay off, or a debt you don’t believe you owe. In both cases, exercise your rights and make sure inappropriate practices are not invading your home.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.