If you have more debt than you can handle, you are probably no stranger to collection notices and phone calls. Perhaps those notices and phone calls feel like they have taken over your life, adding to your financial stress. You can protect yourself.
Know your rights
First, you should know the rights you have under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). This law applies to collection agencies, the companies that creditors like credit card companies sell your debt to for collection. It does not apply to the original creditor, i.e. the credit card company, itself. The FDCPA is a federal law that controls what these companies can and cannot do to try to collect payment. The FDCPA requires collectors:
- To notify you of your right to dispute the debt
- To identify themselves as a debt collector
- To no longer contact you if you request them to stop in writing, and they cannot contact you at work if you tell them your workplace does not allow calls there
- To only contact your attorney if you notify them that you have one
- Not to be abusive in their language or call repeatedly to harass you, and they cannot threaten to take you to court if they do not intend to do so
- Not to call before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Not to lie or try to mislead you about your debt
- Not to make your debt public or discuss your debt with anyone else without your permission
Steps you can take
Now that you know your rights, there are steps you can take. As stated above, the collectors must stop contacting you if you ask them to in writing. Keep records of your requests. If you are thinking of filing bankruptcy, your attorney can request that all contact go through the attorney. Bankruptcy will also automatically stop collection attempts while the court processes your bankruptcy. Finally, if you feel a creditor has violated any of the rules above, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or with the Ohio Attorney General.
If you feel overwhelmed by your debt and creditors are harassing you, you do have rights and you do have options. Knowing how to protect yourself from collection agencies is your first step to taking control over your debt.