Stopping Creditors from Calling

If you are falling behind on your payments, you might find yourself being irritated by phone calls from the collection agencies. If your debt has been handed over to one of these agencies, you already have a black mark on your credit report. However, it does not mean you are without recourse or are helpless in their hands. Even as a debtor you have the right to be treated with respect and basic decency. Abusive calls from the collection agencies are unethical and by making yourself aware of your rights as a debtor, you can protect yourself from the activities of the bottom-feeding debt collection agencies who regard debtors as barely human and unworthy of any respect or decency.

The most crucial law to know as a debtor having trouble is the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, or FDCPA. This is a law that sets the boundaries within which debt collection agencies have to operate and the recourses debtors have if they feel they have been treated abusively. If a debt collection agency has been acting in ways that violate the FDCPA, contact your government officials and police to file a compliant against them. By doing so, you will help not only yourself, but other debtors who may not be familiar with the law.

The first thing to know about debt collection is that you have 30 days to review any debt that they say you owe. Unfortunately, people do make mistakes and sometimes the wrong person is identified as owing an unpaid debt, so the law provides this 30-day grace period to verify that this debt is indeed a loan that you contracted, and not someone else's loan that was mistakenly connected with you (or worse, an act of identity theft, which is a criminal act against you, to which you need to immediately respond by contacting the appropriate law-enforcement agencies). Until this 30-day period is up, debt collectors are not allowed to call and harass you. However, if the 30-day grace period passes and you have not disputed the debt, they are free to call you -- but even then, they are required to follow certain restrictions.

For instance, they must observe reasonable hours for making collection calls. They cannot call at all hours of the night, but must call between 8AM and 9PM, your local time. They cannot make one call right after another in order to be annoying, nor can they reverse the charges on a call such that you are stuck with a toll. This generally is also held to extend to calls to cellular phones, since most cellular service plans charge the owner of the phone for calls received as well as outgoing calls.

It is absolutely forbidden for a debt collector to make threats of bodily harm or property damage against you. They are not empowered to use physical coercion, and to make such claims is a serious violation of the law. Yet debt collectors are regularly caught on tape threatening to beat up debtors or their families, as well as threatening to smash prized possessions. The only time debt collectors are even allowed to talk about taking a debtor's possessions is when that property has been pledged as collateral on a loan, and it can be taken only for failure to repay that particular loan. For instance, a mortgage is secured with your house, and a car loan is secured with that car -- but if you fall behind on a credit card bill and are current on your mortgage and car loan, the creditor can't threaten to have your car repossessed or your house foreclosed upon.

Debt collectors also are forbidden to threaten to damage your reputation. For example, they cannot threaten to tell your friends, neighbors, or employer about your debt problems. In most states, the collector may only share the information about your debt with you and your spouse and the lender. Telling anyone else is a violation of your privacy and gives you grounds to sue a collection agency for not only the financial damages that resulted, but emotional pain and suffering.

The collector cannot threaten to ruin your credit history. Your credit report took a ding when your debt was handed over to the debt collection agency. This notation will remain on your credit report for 7 to 10 years, depending upon the credit reporting agency, but it is all that happens when your loan is turned over to a collection agency. Federal law does not allow a collection agency to further ruin your credit in any other way. If they threaten to do so, or to tell anyone else about your debt, the collection agency is in violation of the FDCPA and you should report the agency to the appropriate authorities.

A collector cannot threaten to arrest you or impersonate a law enforcement officer. Nobody can be arrested simply for failing to pay a debt on time. The days of debtors' prisons are long over. Falsely claiming to be an officer of the law is a very serious offense, and debt collectors have faced criminal charges for claiming to work for state or federal law enforcement agencies. In fact, debt collectors are not only prohibited from misrepresenting their identity, but are actually legally required to truthfully identify themselves, both individually by name and by the name of the company with which they are working.

Debt collectors are not allowed to use obscene or abusive language during calls. Yet many are routinely caught on tape calling people scoundrels, deadbeats, whores and other vile names, not to mention slinging F-bombs and generally being potty-mouths. Many of them rely on the shock value of this sort of foul-mouthed behavior to frighten debtors into paying up, and get away with it because most debtors are so upset by such language that they don't want to have to repeat those vile words in order to report the offense to law enforcement.

The only thing that a collection agency can threaten to do to you for non-payment is to take you to court and sue you for the money. If they are threatening anything other than this, get off the phone and call the police. Your local law enforcement agencies will assist you in filing an official complaint. Even if your credit has been damaged by having a bill turned over to a collection agency, you should not allow it to be further damaged by dishonest debt collectors entering false information. Nor should you have to put up with abusive behavior on the part of debt collectors when they call you. You do not give up your rights just because you've fallen behind on paying back a loan.

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