It’s one of the things consumers dread the most- a debt collector calling to collect a payment on an unpaid credit card, medical bill or past due student loan. Experts agree that ignoring debt collectors’ letters and phone calls is a bad idea. It can only make matters worse. The best advice is to avoid debt collectors altogether and attempt to negotiate a payment plan with the original creditor before it is sold to a third-party debt collector.
The following tips will help you deal with debt collectors:
1.) Educate yourself. Become familiar with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA protects consumers from harassing phone calls, threats and abusive language debt collectors often use to obtain payment. These tactics are illegal and should be reported to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). To learn more about the FDCPA and the protections it offers, watch this short video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5o-ci9nVEgA.
2.) Do not ignore. The law allows consumers to send written requests for verification of the debt within 30 days of being contacted by a debt collector. Do not ignore letters, phone calls or court notices about debt lawsuits.
3.) Keep copies and records. Experts say keep these as long as you keep your tax documents. Others believe these should be kept for as long as the statute of limitations. Documents detailing proof of settlement or resolution of debts should be kept forever.
4.) Safeguard your bank account. Debt collectors can file a lawsuit against consumers for nonpayment of debts. Freezing savings or checking accounts is one of the court-ordered options for collecting debts. Do not make payments using your bank account and routing numbers. Make payments with money orders or a third party payment service so you have proof of payment but avoid paying with a personal check. Let collectors know if your bank account contains only exempt funds. You should also tell them if you have filed for bankruptcy. This will cease all collection attempts.
5.) Record conversations. If a debt collector uses abusive language or threatens you, record the conversation. Using these type tactics to collect on a debt is illegal. Another option is to tell the debt collector the conversation is being recorded, as many collectors will be less likely to overstep their bounds if they know they are being recorded.
6.) Get it in writing. Any agreements for making debt collection payments should be confirmed in writing and signed by a debt collector before you make your first payment. This can avoid any misunderstandings about the amount to be paid and time period to pay off the debt.
If you have any questions on this topic or are in a financial crisis and are considering filing 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, P.A. 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 website at www.miamibankruptcy.com.