Debt collectors can be relentless when trying to reach consumers. The law precludes debt collectors from calling during certain times of the day, but what about on holidays?
Dealing with debt collectors can be stressful. Their job is to get the consumer to pay on a debt at any means necessary, which can often mean through coercion, harassment, and fear. Many debt collectors have been known to use aggressive or illegal tactics to collect on a debt, leaving many consumers to feel like they have no choice but to make payment to get them to go away. However, federal law offers certain protections when it comes to debt collectors. It is important that consumers understand what these protections are so that they are aware of what rights they do have when dealing with debt collectors.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), nearly one in every four people have a debt in collections. Illegal debt collection practice is a common complaint made to the CFPB.
Consumer debts have what is called a statute of limitations. This is the amount of time the creditor can use the court to force a consumer to pay a debt. After the statute of limitations has expired on a debt, it is no longer legally enforceable. Occasionally, however, a consumer may be contacted regarding an old debt by a collector who hopes the consumer will ‘restart the statute of limitations.’
Zombie debt is debt that the consumer thinks is “dead,” meaning it is past the statute of limitations that the debt collector is now trying to bring back to life. While the debt collector cannot take the consumer to court to collect on the debt, there are no laws saying they cannot continue to contact the consumer to collect what is owed. Many times, debt collection agencies will purchase expired debt to turn a profit. Since the cost to buy expired debt is exceptionally low, even if they collect on a handful of accounts, they are still earning a profit.
Facing debt collection is stressful and there are laws in place to protect consumers. Debt collectors can be persistent, even to the point of becoming harassing and threatening at times. However, it is vital that consumers facing collections actions realize that they do, in fact, have rights, and these rights fall largely under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
The FDCPA was signed into law in 1978. The law designates what type of behavior is acceptable by debt collectors and what type is considered abusive and unethical. The law was created to curb tactics that had largely gotten out of control by companies engaging in debt collection.
Debt collection is a profitable business in the U.S., but not all debt collectors follow legitimate, legal collection practices. According to officials from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), most consumer complaints made annually involve illegal debt collection practices, which is why they have made recent efforts to crack down on these types of tactics.
In response, the FTC has launched a multi-agency campaign called “Operation Corrupt Collector.” This crackdown campaign focuses on educating consumers on how to identify illegal debt-collection practices, as well as enforcement against debt collectors who are found to be breaking the law.
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.
When someone is facing debt collection, it is important that person knows his or her rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that protects consumers against unfair collection practices, including:
- Calling you repeatedly to annoy or harass you;
- Trying to collect more than you owe;
- Failing to send a written notice of the debt;
- Threatening violence, using profanity or offensive language;
- Threatening dire consequences (i.e. – lawsuits, criminal prosecution, wage garnishment, jail time, permanently ruining your credit);
- Calling you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.;
- Revealing debt to third parties (i.e. – family, neighbors, friends, co-workers, etc.);
- Contacting you at your work, after you have requested them to stop;
- Failing to verify disputed debts;
- Ignoring cease communication requests.
When someone is in debt, he or she may feel trapped with nowhere to turn. According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study, the average American consumer has $38,000 in debt, not including their mortgage.
As soon as creditors or debt collectors begin contacting the consumer regarding what he or she owes, the person may feel like he or she has no choice but to do whatever is being demanded of him or her. However, most consumers do not realize that they do, in fact, have rights when it comes to debt they owe. It helps to know what these rights are when debt collectors or creditors come calling.
Getting out of debt can seem like a never-ending battle. Once someone falls behind on one or more bill payments, the debt collector calls can be relentless. The late fees and penalties that are often assessed on past-due accounts, not to mention the interest rate spikes that come along with missing a payment, can make getting back on one’s feet nearly impossible. There are certain steps that can help consumers who are facing these types of situations get out of debt and stay out.
It can be easy to react out of stress or panic and make decisions that someone would not normally have made, especially when dealing with debt collectors. It is important that whatever decisions are made by the consumer are ones that are carefully considered and logical. Many consumers may react out of fear and enter into payment agreements that they would not normally agree with and cannot realistically afford just to get the debt collector to back down. The aggressive techniques used by many debt collectors have this motive in mind. Make sure you understand and get the terms in writing, first. Never agree immediately to a payment arrangement over the phone with a debt collector.
In life, honesty is always the best policy, but not when it comes to communicating with a debt collector. In fact, it is best to use caution when making any statements to a debt collector, as they could be recorded and used against a person later. By no means should the consumer lie to the debt collector, but he or she should at least use reasonable care when talking with someone who is collecting a debt.
It is important to be aware of the tactics that many debt collectors will use to get you to pay on a debt. They often will resort to scare tactics or bullying to put the individual in fear of losing his or her home or livelihood if he or she does not pay on the debt. One key piece of advice is to know that all consumers have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).