Debt collectors can be extremely persistent, intimidating and even downright rude. While they may have legitimate grounds for attempting to recover debts, they don't have unlimited reign when it comes to the methods they use for doing so.
As a consumer, you have important rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This federal law sets limits on how far debt collectors can go. It prohibits abusive and threatening tactics. It also gives victims of illegal practices the right to pursue compensation.
How do you know if you've been a victim?
If you're behind on payments for your mortgage, credit cards, personal loans, car loans, medical bills or other accounts, you may soon find that those debts have been transferred to a collection agency, resulting in frequent phone calls and letters. Over time, these contacts may increase in frequency and intensity. It can be difficult to know which tactics are within the bounds of the law.
If you're dealing with any of the following red flags, you may be a victim:
- Harassment, which may include repeated phone calls late at night or early in the morning, or continued calls to your work even after you've asked them to stop
- False statements, including lies from the debt collector about their identity or misrepresentations about the type (or amount) of debt you owe
- Threats - for example, threatening to have you arrested or to disclose your private information to your employer (or other third parties)
- Unfair practices such as trying to collect extra money or depositing a post-dated check early
You have the right to seek relief from abusive and unfair practices. You may even be entitled to compensation for the indignities you've suffered.
Stopping debt collectors for good
If you're already drowning in debt, with no hope of ever paying it all back, you may wish to consider long-term solutions for getting back on your feet. Bankruptcy is one of the most effective ways to halt debt collectors in their tracks. As soon as you hire an attorney, your creditors can no longer contact you directly. Likewise, once you file bankruptcy, they can't keep attempting to collect.
As you can see, bankruptcy has many advantages. Consider meeting with a lawyer to determine whether it's right for you.