How to Recognize and Stop Creditor Harassment - Total Bankruptcy
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How to Recognize, and Stop, Creditor Harassment

If you're considering filing bankruptcy, if you've already filed bankruptcy, or if you're just struggling with debts, you may have had creditors contact you in an effort to collect on debts. While dealing with creditors may not be a pleasant experience, it shouldn't leave you afraid to answer the phone or check the mail.

With the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) of 1978, the U.S. government outlined required and forbidden behaviors for those collecting on debts. If your creditors aren't adhering to these guidelines, they're probably breaking the law, which means that you can take action to stop them. Read on to learn more.

Forbidden Behaviors from Debt Collectors

If a debt collector has tried to get you to pay by doing any of the following, you may have grounds to take legal action, and should consider contacting a bankruptcy lawyer to help you move forward.

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  • Calling outside of 8:00 am - 9:00 pm local time;
  • Contacting you after you sent a written request to have contact discontinued (exceptions: lawsuits, notice of intended legal action, notice of end of collection efforts);
  • Causing your phone to ring or engaging you in conversation repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse or harass;
  • Contacting you at work after receiving a written request not to do so;
  • Contacting you when you're known to be represented by a lawyer;
  • Contacting you after you requested verification or validation of a debt and before they mail said verification or validation;
  • Misrepresenting themselves or deceiving you to get you to pay;
  • Publishing your name/address on a "bad debt" list;
  • Attempting to collect more than is justified by your original debts and any contracts you signed;
  • Threatening arrest or legal action that isn't permitted by law;
  • Using abusive or profane language in communications related to collection efforts;
  • Contacting a third party (other than your spouse or attorney) and disclosing details of your debt, or threatening to do so;
  • Contacting you in an embarrassing way (e.g. via a postcard) to collect debt; and
  • Reporting or threatening to report false information on your credit report.

Remember, consumer protection laws exist to protect you! Don't be afraid to take action if a creditor has violated your rights by doing any of the above. If you think a creditor has violated your rights, but you aren't sure whether any of the above actions occurred, consider consulting a bankruptcy attorney, who can provide you with a complete list of prohibited behaviors.

Required Behaviors from Debt Collectors

In addition to certain limits on the behavior of debt collectors, U.S. law also outlines specific requirements for how debt collectors must behave when attempting to collect from you. If a debt collector doesn't comply with any of the following, you may be able to pursue legal action. Debt collectors follow the law by:

  • Identifying themselves in every communication with you as a debt collector and informing you that information gathered will be used to collect a debt
  • Informing you of your right to dispute a debt
  • Providing the name and address of the original creditor (to whom you originally owed money) within 30 days of receiving the debt-dispute form from you
  • Providing verification of the debt if you request such verification
  • Filing any legal action in an appropriate venue: where you live or where you signed the original documents associated with the debt

Again, this list is not exhaustive - for a more complete description of any of the items mentioned or for an analysis of your specific situation, you may want to speak with a bankruptcy attorney practicing in your area.

Stopping Creditor Harassment

If creditors are harassing you or even attempting to collect on debts in legal (but still stress-inducing) ways, consider communicating with your creditors directly to address the problem. Explain your situation (why you haven't paid your bills) and try to negotiate for a longer payment period, lower payments or a reduction in total amount owed.

If your creditors are unwilling to compromise, consider filing bankruptcy. When you file bankruptcy, an automatic stay goes into effect and prevents creditors from taking any kind of collection action. Once you file your bankruptcy petition, creditors should stop contacting you within 7-10 days. If they don't, the law is on your side and you can let your bankruptcy lawyer handle them.

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