Creditor Harassment and Bankruptcy
Dealing with a significant amount of debt is difficult enough, but when creditors began hounding you for payment the situation can feel as if it has spiraled out of control.
Despite the limits placed on debt collectors by law, there are still plenty who harass debtors. In some cases, the actions creditors are taking are perfectly legal, but can still feel intimidating and put you in a number of uncomfortable situations.
The good news is you can do something about creditor harassment. If creditors are being abusive with their actions it’s possible to report them and bring an end to the problem. And if they are simply doing their job there are still tools available to help you bring an end to this difficult time.
What are some of the best things you can do if you are dealing with creditor harassment?
Understand Your Rights as a Debtor
It’s true, you might have made mistakes that led to the debt situation you’re in now, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have rights. You don’t need to accept debt collector bullying and harassment.
Debtor’s rights protect you from certain actions some debt collectors take.
According to the Unfair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors and creditors are barred from:
- Contact a debtor repeatedly
- Contact a debtor at unreasonable hours
- Contact a debtor’s employer if they’ve been told not to
- Failing to identify themselves as a debt collector or creditor
- Contact a debtor’s friends, family, or neighbors without permission
- Utilize deceptive tactics
- Make threats related to child custody, arrest, or loss of welfare benefits
- Make threats of repossession when not authorized by the law
- Use derogatory, obscene, or insulting words
- Contact a debtor after they’ve been told not to and to contact a lawyer representing the debtor instead
There are specific limits as to what a debt collector can do.
For instance, they are not permitted to contact a debtor before 8 am or after 9 pm without permission. It’s important that, as the debtor, you make it clear you know the boundaries of debt collection and explain what they can and cannot do. If you don’t want calls at work, tell the collector to never contact you at work. You can also tell them not to contact friends or family.
You even have the power to tell a debt collector to never call you again. This doesn’t mean you’re off the hook regarding the debt, but it does mean you don’t need to deal with phone calls.
Ask for Proof of the Debt
Anyone who is contacted by a debt collector has a right to ask for proof of that debt. It’s important you not pay a debt until you receive proof of the debt and verify it is accurate.
Most people are surprised to learn how often debt is applied to a person inaccurately. Even a debt that was once yours might no longer be accurate or something you legally need to pay.
A debt collector must show documentation of a debt to be legally entitled to payment. If they are unable to produce this proof you cannot be held liable for the debt.
To learn more about creditors providing proof of debt and why it’s an important right for consumers, check out this information from The Balance.
Negotiate a Repayment Arrangement
There are instances in which a creditor will work with you on repayment on a debt. For instance, a creditor might be demanding a lump sum payment but would be willing to accept a few smaller payments over the course of a few weeks or months if you ask. They might even be willing to accept a portion of the total debt if you pay them within a certain period of time.
Keep in mind, if you pay only a portion of a debt owed it will have tax ramifications.
It’s also important to never give a debt collector direct access to your checking or savings account. If you arrangement a payment plan, make sure you are responsible for making that payment manually by the due date, as opposed to arranging an automatic payment or direct withdraw arrangement.
Contact an Attorney
Many times the best option for dealing with creditor harassment is to contact an attorney. An attorney can help negotiate payment arrangement with a debt collector or make it easier to navigate a debt collection lawsuit. And if you choose tofile for bankruptcy to deal with your debts, an attorney can help you with that process.
To discuss your situation or to schedule a consultation, contact the Law Office of Robert M. Geller at (813) 254-5696.