Dealing with debt collectors is stressful, especially when the person owing the debt simply does not have the financial resources to pay. It can be easy to fall behind on bills, and before too long, the consumer will find himself or herself juggling countless collection calls. These calls are not always pleasant. After all, the debt collectors have one job to do and that job is to receive payment on the debt. What is the best way to deal with debt collectors when an individual is not able to come up with the payment?
Stay Calm and Attempt to Work with the Collector
Debt collectors have a reputation of being aggressive when performing their jobs. However, it is important to stay as calm as possible when communicating with a debt collector. If a consumer agrees that he or she owes the debt and does not have the resources to do so, it may still be beneficial to at least attempt to work with the debt collector on paying on the debt. If the person does not have the money but still wants to pay, the collector may mark the consumer down as “refused to pay.” However, do not fear this label. It is essentially meaningless in the collection process. It does not make the collection case against consumer any worse or any better.
Cautiously Discuss Settlement
One fact to keep in mind when dealing with collection agents is that they often will get bonuses for getting the consumer to make a payment while they are on the phone. To try to push the consumer to agree to a deal, many times they will say that a settlement offer provided is a one-time thing. However, this is not the case. A debt settlement offer is just that: an offer. It is a point of negotiation. Do not agree to any type of arrangement that cannot be realistically continued. For example, do not agree to a monthly payment that the consumer is not going to be able to keep up with in the long term. The older a debt is, the more willing the collection agent will be to work with the consumer on a settlement. Try negotiating with the agent on the phone and set a figure that will realistically for you. Never make a promise to pay if you cannot afford to do so, and never provide the debt collector with access to your bank account or routing number.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
Federal law prohibits certain types of behavior from third-party debt collectors. Many consumers are not aware of what rights they may have under the FDCPA, but one of those is the right to demand that the debt collector not contact them at their place of employment. Once this demand is made, the collector could face legal consequences for continuing to contact the person at his or her work. The FDCPA also prohibits calls in the early morning hours, as well as late evening hours. Consumers are also protected under the law from abusive, threatening or harassing collection techniques.
Statute of Limitations
Debt collectors will often assume the consumer on the other end of the phone is not aware of the laws regarding debt collection. In fact, if a debt is too old and is past the statute of limitations, the consumer is under no legal obligation to pay it. In Florida, this timeline is five years from the date the debt began for written contracts, including personal loans. For debts with revolving accounts, such as credit cards, the time limit is four years. Always verify the debt and see how old it is before agreeing to make any payment. If you pay any amount on a debt that is past the statute of limitations, the debt is ‘revived.’ This means the clock resets and a new statute of limitations period begins. It also often means the collector can sue you to collect the full amount of the debt, which may include additional interest and fees.
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If you have questions on this topic or are in financial crisis and considering filing for bankruptcy, contact an experienced Miami bankruptcy attorney who can advise you of all of your options. As an experienced CPA as well as a proven bankruptcy lawyer, Timothy Kingcade knows how to help clients take full advantage of the bankruptcy laws to protect their assets and get successful results. Since 1996 Kingcade Garcia McMaken has been helping people from all walks of life build a better tomorrow. Our attorneys’ help thousands of people every year take advantage of their rights under bankruptcy protection to restart, rebuild and recover. The day you hire our firm, we will contact your creditors to stop the harassment. You can also find useful consumer information on the Kingcade Garcia McMaken website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.