It’s hard enough to be in heavy debt. But if you’ve fallen behind and creditors or debt collection agencies are calling you at home or work, your stress levels could be at an all-time high.
You might feel confused, angry, or even guilty about these collection calls. But have you ever considered that your creditors might be using unfair debt collection practices?
Most people don’t realize that there are limits to what a debt collector can do and say when they’re trying to collect a debt. That’s why it’s so important to know the facts about unfair debt collection practices, so that you can protect yourself against them.
1. Not All Debt Collection Calls Are Legitimate
When you get debt collection calls, have the debt collector or creditor calling you identify themselves and give you the specifics on the debt they are trying to collect.
Knowing the name of the debt collector calling you, the debt collection company’s name, and debt amount can help you determine if the debt collection call is legitimate. If a debt collector calls the wrong person or misrepresent the amount you owe, they could be using unfair debt collection practices.
If a debt collector is calling the wrong person, let them know that you are not the person they are trying to reach. To make sure they don’t call you again, send them a cease and desist letter requesting that they stop contacting you.
2. There’s a Difference Between a Creditor and a Debt Collection Agency
If you don’t recognize the name of the debt collection company contacting you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the debt collector is calling the wrong person. Once an account has been delinquent for a certain amount of time, most creditors will either send your debt to a debt collector or sell it to them for a fraction of what you owe. This process is called a charge off.
Once your debt has been charged off, debt collectors try to make a profit from your debt by getting you to pay the same amount as before. To do this, they may use more aggressive debt collection tactics on the phone to pressure you into paying. Even though it’s not illegal for debt collectors to call you, there are certain things debt collectors cannot do when they call, which are explained below.
3. Debt Collectors Aren’t Allowed to Use Unfair Collection Tactics
Under the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA), it’s illegal for debt collectors to:
- Contact you at unreasonable hours: Debt collectors can call, text, or send you letters—but debt collectors cannot contact you at unreasonable times, like before 8AM or after 9PM, unless you agree to it.
- Harass or threaten you: Debt collectors cannot threaten to harm you, use obscene or profane language, or repeatedly use the phone to annoy you.
- Make false statements or misrepresent themselves in any way: It’s illegal for a debt collector to make false claims about you or themselves when they are trying to collect a debt. For example, a debt collector cannot claim that they are an attorney or government representative, claim that you committed a crime, or misrepresent the amount you owe.
- Threaten to seize, garnish, or sell your property or wages if you don’t pay:A debt collector cannot threaten to seize or garnish your wages unless they take you to court and get a court order to garnish your wages, or intend to take you to court in order to do so.
4. Debt Collectors Who Don’t Follow the Law Could Be Held Responsible
To learn more about what a debt collector can and cannot do, the Federal Trade Commission has more information about the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.
If you think a debt collector could be violating the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, contact an attorney to see if you have any legal recourse. You have rights as a debtor, and there are legal consequences for creditors and collection agencies who violate those rights.
5. Many Debt Collectors Will Settle Your Debt
Debt collection calls are stressful—even if the debt collector is just doing their job. And the truth is that debt collection calls won’t stop until you pay your debt collector.
But did you know that there are ways to get debt collectors to settle for less than you owe? If you simply cannot afford to pay your debt, you may be able to negotiate with creditors to lower your interest rate, change the terms of your payments, or even settle the debt for less. The next section will explain how to do this.
How to Get a Debt Collector to Settle for Less
Here’s one way you could get a debt collector to settle for less:
- Call your debt collector and explain your situation to them
- Tell them that you cannot pay the full amount on your debt
- Negotiate new terms with your debt collector based on how much you can pay
- Get your debt collector to sign a contract accepting the new terms
- Pay the new amount on time each month.
If you’re able to negotiate with your debt collector to accept less than you owe on your debt, and you pay them on time according to your agreement, debt collectors should stop calling you. However, getting a debt collector to agree to new terms and accept less money than you owe can be difficult. And even if you do, you could be missing out on savings that could help you overcome debt faster.
Sometimes a better option for getting debt collectors to settle for less is by getting professional help from a debt settlement company. Many people in heavy debt turn to companies like Freedom Debt Relief for assistance negotiating with creditors and debt collectors to reduce what they owe.
After enrolling in our program, our Debt Negotiation Experts work with creditors and debt collectors on your behalf to get them to accept less than you owe so you can be debt-free. In fact, our clients could tackle their debt in as little as 24-48 months.*
*Clients who make all their monthly program deposits pay approximately 50% of their enrolled balance before fees, or 68% to 75% including fees, over 24 to 48 months. Not all clients are able to complete our program for various reasons, including their ability to save sufficient funds. Our estimates are based on prior results, which will vary depending on your specific circumstances. We do not guarantee that your debts will be resolved for a specific amount or percentage or within a specific period of time.