How to Protect Yourself Against Creditor Harassment
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act established several laws for creditors and debt collections practices. The laws created by this act cover any type of debt that falls under personal, family, and household debts.
When you are facing bankruptcy, it is highly likely that you are dealing with annoying calls from creditors at your place of business, on your personal phone, and even contacting loved ones looking for you. Even if you are behind on your bills, you do not need to take poor treatment from creditors.There are laws against harassment but creditors often break these regulations because not enough people fight the harassment through the right routes.
It is completely normal for a person to miss a bill or overlook a payment every so often. We regularly work with clients that have been contacted by phone and by mail. After that, creditors have been known to speak to your neighbors, your family, and even your employer.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act established several laws for creditors and debt collections practices. The laws created by this act cover any type of debt that falls under personal, family, and household debts. The most common type of contact consumers receive is the result of lapsed payment on personal accounts, auto loans, medical bills, and home mortgages. Debt from running a business does not fall under this Act.
Even if you owe a debt to a creditor, they are not able to communicate with you at a frequency which can be considered as harassment. Some of the other things prohibited by the laws put in place by the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act include:
- Calling you late at night, which is any time past 9p.m.
- Calling you early in the morning, which is any time before 8a.m.
- Calling you at work
- Calling you repeatedly
- Engaging you in deceptive conduct
- Calling you without disclosing the collector’s identity
- Using obscene, derogatory, or insulting remarks
- Threatening to have you arrested
- Threatening to have your child custody or welfare benefits revoked
- Publishing your name
- Communicating with you in language or with symbols on envelope or postcards that indicate that the sender is in debt collections
So how can you protect yourself against these annoying practices? Follow these pieces of advice:
Start with kindness but also authority. First of all, it is fair to recognize these people are doing their job and approaching them calmly does work. They deal with agitated clients all of the time so asking calmly for details may solve the problem. Some of these debt collectors have the authority to grant you manageable payment plans or offer settlements for a fraction of the total sum due.
Look for written notice in the mail. The Florida Attorney General’s Office says, “A debt collector is required to send you a written notice within five days after you are first contact, telling you the amount of money you owe. The notice must specify the name of the creditor to whom you owe the money and what action you should take if you believe you do not owe the money.”
Question the amount that is due to you. If you feel you do not owe them the money or you believe the amount owed is incorrect, an attorney can write a letter on your behalf discussing the bill you are questioning. You can write your own letter but always makes copies of any communication you have with the debt collector. They have a legal obligation to respond to you within a reasonable amount of time. Be sure your letter is signed and dated. (It is worth noting you have a legal obligation to make an effort to correct this debt, even if you are simply questioning the amount you owe).
Send a letter by certified mail. When you do not get a response that is sufficient or does not seem to provide enough evidence showing what you owe, send a letter by Certified mail to the company. You will get notice that they signed and received your letter. They cannot say you were not communicating with them when you have evidence that they signed for the letter you sent.
Tell them they cannot talk to your employer. If your employer forbids calls from debt collectors, Federal law dictates they cannot call your place of business if they have “reason to know” your employer forbids this type of calls. Many large companies have standing policies against these types of calls. You can let the debt collector to stop calling you at work. Keep a record of this communication in case you have any future problems.
Do not let them threaten you. It is common for debt collectors to threaten legal action against you even if their legal action is unmerited. They cannot use bad language, cannot threaten you, cannot claim your property will be seized, or threaten legal action they do not plan on taking. Even if you owe money, you never have to give up your rights or get mistreated by another person. When you feel threatened or harassed, it may be time to reach out to an attorney. You may have enough evidence to sue.
File a complaint. An attorney is the most qualified party in helping you file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the attorney general in your state. The complaint should be heeded by the company and may improve the lives of other debtors being harassed by the same debt collectors.
They should leave you alone after bankruptcy. After filing bankruptcy because of insurmountable debt, the amount you owe may be forgiven by the courts. Bankruptcy legally satisfies your obligations and frees you from debt.
Sometimes bankruptcy is the right option for you when your debts are insurmountable. Our team is qualified in providing assistance to individuals and businesses facing bankruptcy. As attorneys on your side, we advise you about the right financial decision for your situation. There are a few types of bankruptcy so we will advise you concerning the best course of action for you.
There are laws available to protect even if your creditors have a reason to contact you for collections. Let us protect you during every stage of your financial life especially during bankruptcy proceedings.
If you need to protect yourself from creditors until you sort out your financial situation, contact The Law Office of Kelley, Fulton & Kaplan. We are available by phone at 561-264-6850 or online at www.kelleylawoffice.com.