A recent report from CNN Money revealed that debt collectors have become more aggressive than ever over the past couple of years. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission, the complaints of harassment by debt collectors surged 50 percent to 67,550 in 2009. Further, the FTC expects complaints to jump by additional 13 percent in 2010 based on the number of complaints filed in the first six months of the year.
Most people don’t like the idea of being in debt, let alone having someone constantly harass them for money they would pay if they could. If you are being harassed by bill collectors, there are steps you can take and rights you have to get them off your back. The following is a closer look at how to handle being harassed by hostile debt collectors.
Understand the Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection
When a debt collector calls to get money from you, they’re simply doing their job. As personal as they make it seem, debt collection is just a nine to five occupation for them, so don’t let them intimidate you into giving away your money. Instead, take time to understand the statute of limitations on your debt.
Each state will have a different set of statutes to follow for a particular debt collection, which is why it’s important to study the rules for your state. For instance, your state may allow a company to collect on a credit card debt for five years, while another could go for seven. Once you determine how long a company can legally pursue a specific debt, you can explain to the debt collector when your debt is no longer collectible.
However, if your debt is collectible or it isn’t and the agency continues to harass you, it’s important to know the protection you have under law.
Know Your Rights
No matter how much you owe, being harassed is never acceptable. This why you need to know your rights. Under the FDCPA, debt collectors are not allowed to the following or you can take action against them:
- Give false statements. Debt collectors cannot lie when trying to collect a debt, including misrepresenting what you owe or claiming that you have committed a crime.
- Give unlawful threats. As a part of debt recovery, collectors cannot say that you will be arrested if you don’t pay your debt, say they will garnish your wages, remove money from your bank accounts without permission or say that they will take legal action against you if they don’t intend to do so.
- Take part in unfair practices. They may not engage in unfair practices, including attempting to collect any interest or fees unless your original contract allows for the charge, threaten to take your property or contact you by postcard.
Also, a debt collector is not allowed to call you multiple times if you’ve asked them not to. Since the top complaint from consumers to the FTC is repeated calls, it’s important to know how to put a stop to debt collector calls.
Once you have informed collection agencies that you no longer want to receive calls from them, they must comply. You can send a Cease and Desist Letter to a collection agency and the FDPCA allows the collector to contact you one final time in writing to let you know what action the collector will take next.
Should I Get an Attorney?
If the harassment just won’t stop, you may want to hire an attorney. There are plenty of collection attorneys out there that will be more than happy to take action against collection agencies that break the law. However, it’s up to you to determine whether hiring one will be worth the money.
Usually, an attorney will break down the cost of their services and the potential money you could receive in return if you win the case. They will also give you the likelihood of winning–and if the attorney is fair and honest, will possibly not even take the case unless you can win. Of course, once everything has been laid out for you, it’s up to you to decide whether an attorney is worth it.
Debt collectors can obtain judgments against you, so you don’t want to completely blow them off. Your job is to exercise your rights by stopping the harassment then work towards a responsible plan that could help you pay down your debt and build your credit the right way.