Thanks to the credit card culture of spending first and paying later, it’s easy to fall into the credit card debt trap.
If you run into credit card debt, you might be overwhelmed and stressed out by the seemingly never-ending phone calls from creditors or collection agencies.
But debt collectors often violate the law while trying to recover debts.
If you’re familiar with your rights, you’ll be able to tell when they’re crossing a line into an unlawful territory, and you won’t be intimidated by illegal tactics. You might even be able to use their law violations to your benefit.
What Happens When You No Longer Make Credit Card Payments?
It can be stressful when you can no longer keep up with credit card payments and default on your account.
If you have unpaid credit card debt, it usually doesn’t just go away. The credit company will typically pursue you for 90 days to demand repayment of the overdue amounts.
When a debt is due past 90 days, your creditor may:
- Close your account
- Report you to credit reporting agencies
- Hire debt collectors to collect the money you owe
- Sell your account to a debt buyer
No one likes getting a string of calls from a group of strangers who have all of your personal info. Knowing which type of company is contacting you is essential if you want to stop collection calls.
Debt Collectors: Who Are They and How Do They Work?
Debt collectors are individuals or companies tasked with collecting past-due debts owed to creditors. There are 7,000+ third-party debt collection agencies in the United States.
Debt collectors may attempt to reach you directly by phone, text message, email, or postal mail. While not responding to a collection call is an option, it’s not a good option.
But harassing phone calls from debt collectors can lead to invasion of privacy, loss of jobs, and marital instability.
Are There Debt Collection Laws That Protect Consumers?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was initially passed in 1978, but in response to numerous complaints about the punitive methods collection agencies were using to collect payments, it was amended in 1996.
Debt collector laws under FDCPA are designed to help protect consumers, so it’s vital to know your rights.
For instance, you typically only receive collection calls when you owe a credit card debt, and collectors can’t contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
It’s worth mentioning that original creditors (banks, credit card companies, and personal loan providers) aren’t covered by the FDCPA.
What About Debt Buyers?
Debt buyers purchase your unpaid credit card debt from your card issuer and attempt to get you to repay them.
Debt buyers do not work on behalf of creditors. This means that they have similar collection rights as the original creditors.
Since they purchase outstanding debt for way less than the overdue balance, it’s advisable to explore debt settlement if your debt is sold to a debt buyer.
Stopping Credit Card Collection Calls
The exact strategy of stopping a collection call will depend on the type of company collecting the debt.
- Keep Good Records of All Contact and Harassment
Your first order of business is to maintain a log of all conversations with a debt collector.
Record who you talked to, what they told you, and at what time. These records will help you remember all the vital info as well as any inconsistencies in what they say to you.
If you have any messages or voicemails with abusive language, keep them since they can be used as evidence in a countersuit.
- Cease and Desist Letter
It’s against the law for debt collectors to use abusive, deceptive, or unfair practices to collect a debt from you. But despite the legal strides to protect consumers, some debt collectors still violate collection call laws.
You have the right to tell a debt collector to cut communication with you if you feel they’re pushy, aggressive, or communicating with others (loved ones or your employer) about your debt.
If you request a debt collector to stop any further communication under the FDCPA, they must do so. Remember to write the letter within 30 days of being contacted and keep a copy of the letter.
- Verify the Debt is Yours
You need to ensure that the creditor or collection agency is calling you about a debt that actually belongs to you.
Mistakes in the debt-collection business are rampant. For instance, if you have a common name, they may contact you about someone else’s account. Or they could contact you about debts you’ve already settled.
If you feel you do not owe the debt or should not pay it, make your case. Inform the collector that the debt is uncollectable and accompany your claim with information. It’s up to them to verify for you that you’re responsible for the debt.
The collector may voluntarily stop collection if you have a valid reason. Their resources could be better spent on people who lack a valid objection to paying the money.
- Explain That You Can’t Afford to Pay
If you’ve hit rock bottom and can’t afford to pay your credit card debt, try explaining this to the debt collector.
While doing this doesn’t mean that the collector will have to stop collections, it may make them move on to another consumer. It might also help prevent your file from being referred to litigation.
- Submit Your Complaint With CFPB
Collection agencies are notorious for intimidating consumers into paying up.
Do not let all of the collection calls get to you. If you feel like the collection attempts you’re getting violate the FDCPA, you can lodge a complaint with the CFPB by calling (855) 411-CFPB (2372) or completing a form online.
Be on The Lookout for Debt Collector Scams
Scammers are getting smarter by the day and may appear legit, even to the trained eye.
To avoid falling victim to debt collection scams, look out for the following signs:
- Not giving details about the debt
- Demanding payment on a very short timeline
- Violating the FDCPA
- Demanding unusual payment methods
Figure Out Your Next Steps for Debt Settlement
Now that you’ve managed to stop the pesky phone calls, it’s time to think clearly about your next move.
Your options are plentiful:
- Credit counseling
- Repayment plans
- Loan workouts
- Filing for bankruptcy
- Debt management plan
If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, contact us and book an appointment to speak to one of our debt consultants. We can help you negotiate with creditors to pay off less than the amount owed.
Our appointments are confidential and don’t obligate you to anything.
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