At one time or another, all of us have forgotten to pay a bill or fallen behind on payments to credit cards, mortgages, autos, medical bills, or other situations involving bills. We have all therefore been contacted by a bill collector, ether through the mail or telephone call. Some these calls and correspondence can become a terror attack from creditors. Some creditors call at all hours at home and work. Some even may call the neighbors, the family, and/or employers. Some collectors can be obnoxious, condescending and downright rude. Despite laws governing their actions, many creditors and collection companies feel that an individual will not have the time, money or emotional strength to pursue them in court. Therefore, they get away with the outrageous and, sometimes, illegal acts.
If you have filed bankruptcy, and received an automatic stay, it is against the law for the creditor or his collection company to contact you without permission of the Bankruptcy Court. If your case is discharged, then creditors and their collection companies are permanently barred from contacting you unless they have received special permission from the Bankruptcy Court, or your debt is one that is excepted from your discharge.
If you have entered into debt consolidation or debt settlement with a non-profit debt counseling service, make sure you know your rights for protection from creditor calls from your representative.
You have other legal rights which protect you against certain collection practices. First, you should know what to do when you start getting bills. If you feel you do not owe the debt, or the amount the bill collector is claiming is incorrect, you should write a letter to both the collection company and the original creditor stating you do not agree you owe the money, or that the amount owed is incorrect. You should also ask for a record of your payments.
If the bill collectors report the debt to a credit reporting agency, you should write to the credit reporting agency and tell them the bill is in dispute. Whenever you write to a bill collector or to the reporting agency, you should sign the letter, date it, and keep a copy for your own file. Remember, just calling the bill collector to say you do not owe the money may not leave a permanent record of the call. Like most bureaucracies, if it is not in writing, it does not exist.
You can stop annoying collection. If the collectors continue to call you, you can send them a letter requesting they cease communication with you under the terms of the Fair Credit Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C.S. Section 1692. When you write your letter, do not forget to date it, sign it, and keep a copy. If you really want them to pay attention, send the letter CERTIFIED. By sending the letter CERTIFIED, you have proof that you sent the letter. If you send this letter, it will not only stop letters to you, but will also stop telephone calls to you.
Also, The Fair Credit Collection Practices Act forbids bill collectors from calling you at inconvenient times, such as before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.. The collectors or agents cannot communicate with third parties such as your neighbor, your friend, or your family members. They cannot contact you at work if they know (notice must be in writing) that your employer prohibits it. They cannot threaten you with criminal prosecution or call you on the phone repeatedly with the intention of harassing you.
Document all your discussions and communications with any debt collectors. If the collection company continues to ignore your warnings and refuses to comply with the law then you could sue them. But their behavior must be truly offensive, not just annoying. You could bring an action in small claims court, or hire a lawyer. But, you must have proof of their actions in order for any court to find in your favor.
DMCC is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit organization committed to educating consumers on financial issues and providing personal assistance to consumers who have become overextended with debt. Education is provided free of charge to consumers, as well as personal counseling to identify the best options for the repayment of their debt. To speak to a certified credit counselor, call toll-free 866-618-3328 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.