Five Ways to Stop Debt Collector Harassment
- June 4, 2014
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By: Robert J. Nahoum
Whether it’s mounting credit card debt, unexpected medical bills or even defaulted student loans, when you fall behind on your bills, the debt collectors will harass you.
Understandably, anyone who has dealt with debt collectors feels abused, harassed and bullied. This is due in large part to the heavy-handed tactics of the debt collection agents. Most debt collection agents are paid in part on a commission basis. The more they can get from you – the more they can earn. This is a recipe for abuse and harassment.
Here are five methods for stopping debt collector harassment:
1. SEND A CEASE AND DESIST LETTER
Federal debt collection laws, known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short), regulates the conduct of third party debt collectors. The FDCPA generally prohibits debt collectors from using abusive debt collection tactics that are false, misleading and harassing.
The FDCPA entitles consumers to demand that debt collectors cease and desist contacting them. There are no magic words that need to be spoken. Just simply send a written letter demanding that the debt collector cease and desist all communication. Send the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested and keep a copy of the letter so that if necessary, you can prove that you demanded a stop to the debt collection.
A word of caution, just because you demanded a cessation of the debt collection does not mean that the debt is gone. The creditor can and probably will send the debt to another debt collector or might even sue you. So, the cease and desist is a temporary means to stop the collection harassment but it is not a permanent fix.
2. DISPUTE THE DEBT
The FDCPA also allows consumers to dispute the debt and demand verification. If the dispute is made within 30 days of the initial communication from the debt collector, no further collection activity can occur until the debt collector verifies the debt. If you truly owe the debt, this may only be a temporary fix.
3. TELL THE DEBT COLLECTOR YOU REFUSE TO PAY THE DEBT
Another tool provided by the FDCPA is when the consumer makes an unequivocal refusal to pay the debt, collection activity must stop. Like the cease and desist, make the refusal in writing, keep a copy for yourself and send it by certified mail. Also like the cease and desist, be warned, a refusal is only a temporary fix.
4. HIRE A CONSUMER LAWYER
Under the FDCPA, if a debt collector knows or has reason to know that a consumer is represented by an attorney; the debt collector can only communicate with the attorney and must leave the consumer alone. When a consumer hires an attorney, the first thing that attorney generally does is send a notice to the debt collector of his or her retention and a demand that any further communication should come directly to the attorney. Also, when you hire an attorney he or she can help to resolve the debt and examine whether any violations of the FDCPA have occurred.
The FDCPA includes a private right of action under which a consumer can sue a debt collector for FDCPA violations. If a debt collector is found to have violated the FDCPA, he or she may recover up to $1,000.00 in statutory damages, plus actual damages (for example pain and suffering) and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
5. FILE FOR BANKRUPTCY
If all else fails and the debt is more than you can handle, consider filing for bankruptcy. The minute you file your bankruptcy petition, by operation of law, all debt collection must stop. In about 60 to 90 days you may be forever discharged from having to pay those debts and so will never hear from the debt collectors again. You will be given a fresh start.
If you need help settling or defending a debt collection law suit, stopping harassing debt collectors or suing a debt collector, contact us today to see what we can do for you.