On top of struggling with debt, people could face the stressful experience of getting harassed by creditors. They may receive repeated phone calls and letters threatening lawsuits and wage garnishment; they may find themselves getting hounded at work and at home.
If you're in such a situation, what can you do to stop creditor harassment? The following are three basic tips for getting creditors to give you some breathing room and, in some cases, get them off your back entirely:
1) Check if what they're doing is legal
If the creditor is using a collection agency, consult California's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which governs the interactions between yourself and the agency. Collection agencies can't use abusive language when they contact you, and they can't threaten physical violence and property destruction. Their communications with you also need to contain certain kinds of information, and there are restrictions as to when they can contact you. They can't misrepresent the amount of debt you owe or communicate with you dishonestly in other ways. If you're experiencing harassment, you can consider reporting the collectors to different agencies, such as the Federal Trade Commission or the California Attorney General Office.
However, when creditors attempt to collect from you directly and not through a third-party collection agency, they face fewer restrictions on their communications with you.
2) Keep records of all interactions
Whether they're contacting you directly or through a collection agency, make records and establish a timeline of all communications with them; keep copies of everything they send you and what you've sent to them.
If they're behaving improperly or if there's some sort of mistake, such as a notice about a debt you don't actually owe, you'll want to keep these records for evidence. Any time you report a creditor or collection agency for misconduct or perhaps face them in court, it will benefit you to have concrete evidence to support your case.
3) Consult with an attorney
Your best bet is to have an experienced debt and bankruptcy attorney on your side who can help advise you on what to do.
- They can give you a better idea if your creditors or the collection agencies are behaving in a legal way and fight on your behalf to get them to stop harassing you.
- They can help you draft effective letters asking creditors to prove that you owe a certain debt or asking them to cease and desist communications with you.
- They may help you negotiate and settle your debts with the creditor, to keep the harassment from escalating.
- They can advise you on filing for bankruptcy, which can discharge some debts and give you more time repay others.
Facing creditor harassment on your own, without the proper legal experience on your side, is not advisable. Contact us for expert advice on successfully managing your debt and getting creditors off your back.