Have you fallen behind on your debt obligations? Are calls from debt collectors a daily occurrence in your life?
You aren’t alone. Many people deal with ongoing calls and letters from debt collectors every day. And unless you find a way to pay the debt, negotiate a settlement, or file for bankruptcy, those actions are likely to continue.
But here’s something debt collectors cannot do: harass you.
Debt collectors can contact you (unless you ask them not to – more on that later), but they must do so within the letter of the law. If they overstep their boundaries they can get into trouble and you’ll have the upper hand regarding the debt.
To learn more about what creditors are legally barred from doing, check out this information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
They are limited in what they can do, but they can still do a lot.
When to Take Debt Collector Threats Seriously
So when do you need to be concerned about the threats debt collectors levy against you?
First, it’s important to understand why debt collectors use threats.
Aggressive debt collectors know threatening tactics work because they can scare some debtors into paying with little regard to their legitimate options. There are even instances in which a person will pay debts they don’t even owe because of a threat. You don’t want to be this person.
If a debt collector contacts you and threatens to send you to collections, file a lawsuit against you, or damage your credit, the first thing you need to do is ask for proof of the debt. You need to make sure the debt is your debt, that it’s one you are still legally obligated to pay, and that communicating with the debt collector about it won’t cause more harm than good.
Next, you need to consider the legitimacy of the threat.
Even if you owe the money the debt collector claims you owe, there is only so much that can be done to collect on it. They can file a lawsuit against you and your credit can be damaged. If they win the lawsuit, they might be able to garnish your wages or have your bank account levied. If the problem is with secured debt, such as a home or vehicle loan, they might be able to use repossession or foreclosure to take the property from you.
Beyond those actions, there’s not much a debt collector can do to you. They can’t have you arrested for not paying and it’s illegal for them to threaten you with any type of physical harm. They can’t share information about non-payment with employers or friends, and they can’t publish information about the debt publicly.
They also cannot continue to contact you if you tell them to stop. All you need to do to get a debt collector to stop calling you, your place of employment, your family, or your friends is to tell them to stop calling you (it’s best to put your request in writing). Chances are this will move them to file a lawsuit against you to collect, but if you ask them to stop contacting you they are legally obligated to do so.
Time Heals All Debt Wounds
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that many of the things debt collectors threaten to do won’t happen immediately and won’t last forever. Yes, your credit can be damaged by unpaid debt, but over time your credit heals, as long as you don’t continue to take missteps. And the most drastic things debt collectors can do can’t happen until they’ve received permission from the court which can take weeks or months.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take threats from a debt collector seriously, but you also shouldn’t panic. The more level-headed your approach to debt collectors the better off you’ll be in the long run.
If you’d like to speak to someone about debt collector threats or you’re looking for options for dealing with unpaid debt, we can help. Contact the Bankruptcy Law Office of Robert M. Geller at (813) 254-5696 to discuss your situation.