What is worse than owing more money than you can pay? Many would say collection attempts. Debt collectors are notoriously persistent and often aggressive. If you owe a creditor, what types of collection attempts can you expect? If you owe a great deal of money, do you have no choice but to deal with harassment?
Standard debt collection is legal, and a creditor can even sue you to obtain a court order authorizing more drastic strategies. However, creditor harassment is unlawful under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Knowing what you can expect, what you aren’t obligated to endure, and what options you may have at your disposal will help you protect your rights and determine your next course of action.
Here are the answers to 11 FAQs about debt collection and creditor harassment.
1. When can a debt collector call you?
Debt collectors can call you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. unless you agree to other times. They also cannot call you at work if your employer tells them you aren’t allowed to receive calls.
2. What are other ways a debt collector can contact you?
Debt collectors can send texts, emails, and letters in addition to phone calls.
3. Can debt collectors call your friends?
Debt collectors can contact your friends, family, and employers, but they can generally only do this once, and only to obtain your contact information. They cannot disclose information about your debt to anyone except you, your spouse, your parent/guardian if you are a minor or dependent, or your representing attorney.
4. Can debt collectors contact you if they know you have an attorney?
Once a debt collector learns that an attorney is representing you regarding your debt, they must only contact your attorney.
5. What happens if the debt collector doesn’t go into detail about your debt?
No more than 5 days after initially contacting you, the debt collector must send you a written validation notice that explains how much you owe, who you owe it to, and what to do if it isn’t your debt. If they fail to do this, you can send a written letter requesting valid forms of this information.
6. What if the debt isn’t yours?
If you believe you don’t owe the debt they are trying to collect, you can send a letter that asks them to verify the debt. You can also simply inform them that it isn’t yours. You will need to send this letter within 30 days of receiving the notice.
7. Can the collector apply your payment to the debt of their choosing?
No. You can identify which debt your payment will cover, and they are not allowed to apply your payment to debt that you have claimed isn’t yours.
8. Can a collector take your wages or benefits?
Yes. If a collector obtains a court order, they can garnish your wages or place a levy on your bank account (i.e. freeze it). Most benefits are exempt from this collection strategy, but, depending on state laws, a collector may be able to take your benefit income to cover debts such as alimony, child support, back taxes, or student loans.
9. What are debt collectors not allowed to do?
Creditor harassment is unlawful and includes a variety of collection tactics. They cannot threaten you with violence or physical harm, use obscene or offensive language, or call you repeatedly to harass you. They also cannot lie to you about the amount you owe, who they are, or what will happen if you don’t pay your debt. Finally, they cannot employ unfair practices, which include depositing post-dated checks too soon or collecting fees or interest in addition to what you owe.
10. What can you do to stop collection attempts?
You can send the collector a letter requesting that they stop all attempts. The Federal Trade Commission suggests making a copy of this letter for your records and paying for a return receipt so you can prove the collector received it. You will generally receive one of two notices: a confirmation that they will stop collection attempts or information about the action (i.e. lawsuit) they will take against you.
Another way to end collection attempts is bankruptcy. Bankruptcy triggers an automatic stay, which means your creditors will not be able to take action against you during your proceeding. For this reason, bankruptcy provides a profound sense of relief for many debtors.
11. What should you do if the collector sues you?
Respond immediately, even if the debt isn’t yours. If you fail to respond, the judge will issue an order without hearing crucial information about your situation.
Have Additional Questions? Get in Touch with Our Firm.
At The Buchalter Law Group, our attorneys have over four decades of combined experience. If you are struggling to manage life with staggering amounts of debt, you may feel as though you have no control over your present or future—especially if your creditors are constantly harassing you. Our team can help you develop a strategy to end this harassment, hold collectors accountable for violations, and implement a plan to help you regain power over your finances.Let us help you fight for a better future. Call (321) 320-6088 to schedule your free initial consultation