Dealing with Debt Collectors - Total Bankruptcy
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Tips on Dealing with Debt Collectors

Know Your Rights and How to Protect Them

Around the country, many people are falling on hard times financially. The value of a dollar continues to decline while prices of fuel, food and just about everything else continue to rise. Household budgets simply do not have the breathing room that they used to have and Americans are falling further into debt.

With no money to spare, many people have been relying on credit cards just to get by. The problem is that when the credit card bills come, there is often no money left in the budget to pay them; therefore, it is easy to fall behind on debt obligations while trying to stretch the shrinking dollar and make the same paycheck cover more territory. In these circumstances, if a financial or medical emergency occurs, it can really cause financial distress and many times lead to bankruptcy.

Many people end up owing debts that they cannot possibly pay. If consumer debt and medical bills are overwhelming, the effects can radiate through every aspect of daily life. When debt collectors begin calling, it can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety.

When a debt collector attempts to collect a debt, even if they are not breaking the law, it can feel like harassment. Debt collectors often try hardball tactics that cross the line, and it is helpful to understand the law in order to know what can be done to regain some peace of mind.

A local bankruptcy lawyer can help you explore how to take control of the situation, including how The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) lays out clear rules that all third party debt collectors must follow.

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What is Contained in the FDCPA?

The FDCPA is federal law that allows consumers to sue if their rights are violated by unfair debt collection practices.

Some key points of the FDCPA include:

  • Debt collectors must only call during the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Debt collectors may call a debtor at work, but if they are advised that the employer does not approve of such calls, they must stop.
  • Debtors may send the creditor a cease and desist letter advising them not to call at all. Under the law, the debt collector may call one more time after receiving the letter to let the debtor know what further action they will take. The creditor may file a court judgment against the debtor at this point. In most states, the original creditor may also still call the debtor if a letter has been sent to the third party debt collector.
  • After a debt collector has contacted a debtor by phone, they must follow up in writing within 5 days with a letter including the name of the creditor, the amount of the debt and instructions for disputing the debt if the debtor believes it is not valid.
  • Debt collectors may not harass the debtor or the debtor's family and friends.
  • Debtors may not speak with anyone about the debt except the debtor or the debtor's lawyer.
  • Debt collectors may not call anyone the debtor knows for any reason other than locating the debtor.
  • A debt collector may not physically or verbally threaten a debtor.
  • A debt collector may not swear at a debtor or call them names.
  • Debt collectors may not call a debtor repeatedly or call right back after a debtor hangs up on them.
  • Debt collectors may not say that they are with a government agency or that they are government employees. They also may not tell debtors that they are attorneys if they are not.
  • Debt collectors may not threaten a debtor with criminal prosecution or tell a debtor that they will go to jail if the debt is not paid. Debts are a civil matter and cannot be criminally prosecuted.
  • Debt collectors may not misrepresent the amount of the debt.
  • Debt collectors may not ignore a debtor's written denial of the debt. If a debt is denied, the debt collector must follow up with proof of the debt or a notice that the matter has been dropped.

What Should You Do When Contacted by a Debt Collection Agency?

If a debtor is being contacted by debt collection agencies, it is always a good idea to document all communications. All letters and receipts should be kept in a file, as well as copies of any checks that have been sent as payment on the debt. Calls from creditors may be recorded, however it is important to check state law regarding taped phone calls and a debtor should always advise the debt collector that the call is being recorded. Each state has different laws regarding the taping of telephone conversations and it is essential that taping be done within the law. A list of state-by-state laws regarding the taping of telephone conversations is available at The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

If a debt collector is in violation of the FDCPA, a report may be filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by visiting the website or calling 1-877-382-4357. The FTC also publishes a free Fair Debt Collection fact sheet that can be requested by phone or viewed online.

In addition to the federal FDCPA, each state also has laws pertaining to fair debt collection practices. A local bankruptcy lawyer may help consumers who need clarification of state laws and accepted debt collection practices.

When a debtor feels that a debt collector has violated the law, a report should be filed with the state Attorney General's office as well as the FTC. A debt collector who has violated state or federal law should also be reported to the Better Business Bureau.

If a debt collector has violated a debtor's rights they may be sued in state or federal court within one year of the date of the violation. A bankruptcy lawyer can advise debtors as to what action they should take when a debt collector has crossed the line and broken state of federal law.

If you are tired of harassing phone calls from debt collectors, be sure to get in touch with a local bankruptcy attorney as soon as possible. Simply fill out our free form or call 877-349-1309, and we'll help you get in touch with one of our sponsoring local bankruptcy attorneys who can help you explore your options.

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