Debt can be stressful enough on its own. 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 debt collector 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. Here are five facts about debt collector calls you should know.
1. Not all debt collector calls are legitimate
When you get debt collection calls, ask the debt collector or creditor calling you to 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 misrepresents the amount you owe, they could be using unfair debt collection practices. If they’ve called the wrong person, let them know you’re not the person they are trying to reach. To make sure they don’t call you again, you can send a cease and desist letter requesting that they stop contacting you.
2. Creditors and a debt collection agencies are not the same
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 debt collector calls are not illegal, there are certain things they can’t do when they call (explained below).
3. Debt collector calls and 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 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm, 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 (e.g., say they are a lawyer or government agent, claim that you committed a crime, or misrepresent the amount you owe).
- Threaten to seize, garnish, or sell your property or wages. A debt collector cannot threaten to seize or garnish your wages unless they 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
If you think debt collector calls or other such actions may be violating the FDCPA, 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. You may contact the Federal Trade Commission or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or your state’s Attorney General, as your state laws may provide additional protections.
5. Many creditors 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 most often won’t stop until you pay your debt collector.
But did you know that there are ways to get creditors 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.
How to get a debt collector to settle for less
There are ways to work with your creditors to see if they will settle your debt amount for less than you originally owed. Here are some steps you can take:
- Call your debt collector or creditor 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 document accepting the new terms.
- Pay the new amount on time each month.
If you’re able to negotiate with your debt collector or original creditor and pay them on time according to your agreement, debt collector calls should stop. However, getting a debt collector to agree to new terms can be difficult. Another option is to get professional help from a debt settlement company.
When using a third party debt settlement company, you’ll stop paying your creditors and instead place this money into a separate bank account that you control. Once you have enough money in this account, the company will contact your creditors to work out a settlement agreement. Once you’ve paid the reduced balance, it’s recorded as paid in full. The company gets its payment after the settlement is reached.
Keep in mind that you may continue to receive calls from debt collection companies after you stop making your payments. However, this is temporary as long as you fulfill the terms of the settlement agreement.
Stop debt collector calls and take control of your finances
If you’re struggling with debt collector calls or worried about making monthly payments, it might be time to take control of your situation. Freedom Debt Relief will help you understand your options for dealing with your debt, including our debt relief options. Our Certified Debt Consultants can help you find the right solution for your financial future. Find out if you qualify today.
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