Creditor Harassment: Know Your Rights

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A recent study revealed exactly how poorly we are preparing for financial emergencies―only 40% of Americans have enough money saved to cover a $400 emergency. That’s simply an unexpected vehicle repair or a few days out of work. What happens when a serious emergency strikes like an injury or illness that requires a lengthy recovery time? What about a divorce or job loss?

When people are financially unprepared to handle emergencies, they turn to credit cards and payday loans, both of which, if not paid off promptly, can cause the consumer to sink more deeply into a financial quagmire. When it becomes difficult to keep up with payments and the consumer falls behind, the harassing phone calls begin.

Lenders

When you borrowed money, whether it was by using a credit card, payday loan, or any other type of loan, you agreed to the lender’s terms of repayment. Once you stop paying, the lender will start calling. They simply want their money back.

What They Can’t Do

Fortunately, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act sets parameters for debt collectors and if the lender oversteps these, they are breaking the law.

They cannot:

  • Call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you agree to it.
  • Call you at work if you tell them you cannot receive calls there.
  • Threaten you.
  • Call you repeatedly. They can call every day but they can’t call over and over if you don’t pick up.
  • Publish information about you.
  • Swear or use abusive language.
  • Have you arrested.
  • Pursue you for a debt that isn’t yours.
  • Come to your place of work.
  • Pretend to be a lawyer, police officer, or government employee.
  • Ask you to pay more than you owe.
  • Threaten to tell others about your debt.
  • Claim that their letters are legal or court papers.
  • Seize Social Security payments, SSI payments, veterans benefits federal retirement benefits, or disability paychecks.

They can:

  • Pressure you into paying. They can call or write you daily and threaten to sue you for repayment (but only if they intend to follow through) as long as they don’t violate the FDCPA.
  • Try to collect an old debt. They can pursue repayment on an expired debt.
  • Sell your debt to another agency.
  • Negotiate your debt. Of course, it will still show up as derogatory on your credit report.
  • They can sue you which could result in wage garnishment or bank levies in order to receive payment.

What You Can Do

If you’re being harassed by a debt collector, you do have some recourse. If they are violating the FDCPA, you can report them to the Consumer Finance Protection Agency for investigation. More information can be found on the agency’s website here.

If they’re not violating the FDCPA but you want the calls to stop, you can send a cease and desist letter that tells the debt collector to stop calling you while you consider your best course of action. Debt collectors are required to follow the letter and stop calling. Understand, however, that a cease and desist letter does not make the debt go away and in fact, because it officially means that you refuse to cooperate with the agency, they will likely seek legal action against you.

Bankruptcy may be the solution to stopping the calls and getting back on your feet. Once the required paperwork is submitted to the bankruptcy court, it will issue an automatic stay which is sort of like a restraining order against your creditors that prohibits them from contacting you to collect the debt in any way.

Bankruptcy is not the right solution for every person who is having financial difficulty but those with debt so high they’re unable to even make minimum payments, it can be a godsend. Bankruptcy can be the fresh start you need to get your life on the right track.

At Miller, Hollander & Jeda, our attorneys have been helping people get the financial help they need for that second chance in life. Our Naples Florida attorneys have been helping people through the bankruptcy process for more than 35 years. If you’re having financial difficulties and think bankruptcy might be the answer, call our Naples Florida attorneys at Miller, Hollander & Jeda at (239)775-2000 for a financial consultation.