When you are behind on your bills, you may begin to get calls from debt collectors. They can persistent and even become harassing. Here is some helpful advice for how to be in the know when dealing with collection activity for past due accounts.
When debt collectors are contacting you, you want to make sure they are abiding by the law. The actions of debt collectors are regulated by the FTC and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. Make sure that the debt collector who is calling you is following the rules. Here are some examples of things debt collectors can not do: calling you before 8am or after 9pm, using a false name, not stating that they are calling to attempt to collect a debt.
Don’t be afraid to tell them to stop calling you. They may give you a hard time, but after you have verbally told them you would no longer like to be contacted, hang up the phone. Send them a formal request in writing asking them to no longer contact you. This may not be immediate, but they should abide by your request after a few weeks. If you decide to cut off communication all together, do realize that the debt will still be there and accumulating interest. The company will most likely still send you monthly statements, so keep track and make sure you are aware of the amount of debt standing. Do note that they may still contact under certain circumstances, such as to tell you that they are no longer trying to collect on the debt or that they are pursuing legal action against you.
Make sure to request the most recent statement from your creditor. Once you have received your bills from your creditor, make sure all the charges are accurate and are indeed your debts. If any of the debts do not seem accurate, call the company for clarification. If you are sure some of these debts are not yours, dispute them as fraud.
If you are ready to begin paying back the debt, try and negotiate with your creditor a settlement option that works within your budget, and is preferably interest free. This can be a very complicated process to do on your own. You should see a professional, like an attorney, for help with this process.
To make sure all of your debts (whether settled or not) are being reported accurately to the credit bureaus, pull a copy of your credit report and check yourself. If anything is inaccurate, inform the credit reporting company in writing what information you think is inaccurate. Include copies, not originals, of any documents that support your position.
Everything you say can and will be held against you, literally. Be careful what you say to a collector. Giving them your cell phone number gives them permission to call you on your cell phone, and telling them where you work gives them permission to call you at work.
Even if you have come to a reasonable agreement with your creditors, understand that nothing is set in stone until you have it in writing. Ask them to mail you the settlement agreement before you agree to pay it back.
Many creditors will make empty threats to you to get you to pay up. It is against the Fair Debt Collection Practices to make threats or use any other form of harassment in an attempt to get you to pay up. If you are ever threatened by a creditor, report them to FTC as well as file a complaint with your state's Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau.
Although it is annoying to have your phone ringing non-stop, if for the time being you cannot come to any agreement or get them to stop, just stop answering the phone while you work out a resolution. Debt collectors try to get you angry or frightened to get you to pay your debt, but it’s better to ignore the calls and say nothing at all then to say the wrong thing.
We know that this is a stressful situation to be in. Don’t ruin relationships with friends by borrowing money or further ruin your credit by taking out a high interest loan you won’t be able to pay back in order to pay off the debt. There is no use in either of these methods, it’s equivalent to robbing Peter to pay Paul, and will perpetuate the never-ending debt cycle.
The only real way to ease the burden of the debts and truly stop the harassing phone calls is to settle your debts. Explore your options and find the right program for you. Research your options to pay down your debt and find the best method for you and your situation today and in the future. There are many options available to you such as credit counseling as well as a debt resolution. If you do decide to work with someone to help pay down your debts, research the company to make sure they are a reputable company and have your best interests at the forefront of the process.
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