When a Debt Collector Calls, What to Do?

When a Debt Collector Calls, What to Do?

Debt collector calls can be frightening and upsetting. But in their efforts to extract money from victims, debt collectors frequently break the law. Knowing your rights will help you recognize when a debt collector is abusing their power and prevent you from being intimidated by unethical methods. Even better, you might be able to take advantage of the debt collector’s legal infractions.

Your anxiety may also be reduced by learning some fundamental dos and don’ts while responding to calls from debt collectors. More significantly, you may avoid saying or doing something that could put you at risk for legal or financial trouble by being prepared for when a debt collector calls. You should first choose whether you wish to speak with the collector. If so, make sure to document everything you and the collector talk about. If you believe the debt is not yours and you are unable to pay the obligation, you might think about alerting the debt collector. However, if you choose not to speak with the collector, you can make a formal request asking that they stop getting in touch with you. You can also stop some collecting connections, such as those made through particular channels or at particular times.

On the other side, avoid doing the following. Never provide any private financial information to a debt collector, make a “good faith” payment, make payment promises, or acknowledge the validity of the debt. You don’t want to do anything that would resuscitate the statute of limitations or make it simpler for the collector to acquire your funds. The most crucial thing to remember is not to say or do anything that implies that you owe a time-barred obligation if a debt collector tries to collect it from you. You risk accidentally resetting the statute of limitations by admitting the obligation or even making a small payment. Last but not least, keep your composure even though debt collectors are frequently nasty and demanding.

Collectors are subject to restrictions imposed by the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which is codified at 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 and subsequent sections. This rule forbids, for instance, that debt collectors use profane language or threaten to harm you if you don’t pay. Additionally, it restricts the times and locations at which the debt collector may contact you, with some restrictions, forbids debt collectors from discussing your debt with others, and more. Similar state statutes that offer even greater rights than the federal FDCPA exist in some states. You may be able to use the violation as leverage in settlement negotiations if the collector exceeds the line and breaks the law.

Find out your state’s statute of limitations before suing to collect a debt if the debt the collector is phoning about is more than a few years old. The statute of limitations usually starts running when you last made a payment, though it can also be the date you last utilized the account, made a pledge to pay, signed a payment arrangement, or even admitted liability for the debt. The precise date is determined by the type of debt, local state law, or the state that is mentioned in your credit agreement. To find out the applicable statute of limitations in your case, speak with a legal aid counsel, another attorney in your state, or the office of the state attorney general.

After the statute of limitations period has passed, you could still be sued.

Even when the statue of limitations has passed, a creditor or collector may still bring a lawsuit against you. You will need to use the statute of limitations as a defense if you are sued. If you don’t, the debt collector or creditor may be able to get a judgment against you for a debt that would otherwise be unenforceable.

A statute of limitations also only affects your ability to be sued for the debt, not the debt itself. Even if the statue of limitations has passed, you might still get letters or phone calls from creditors regarding a debt.

When a Debt Collector Calls, What to Do

Choose whether you want to speak with the collector

If a debt collector reaches you, you might wish to avoid answering the phone or responding to other forms of communication—at least until you are aware of your rights, determine whether the debt is actually yours, decide whether you want to file for bankruptcy, and determine whether the statute of limitations has run. You don’t want to unintentionally give the debt collector important information on the debt’s collection, or even worse, say something that reaffirms the debt.

Keep a record if you choose to speak with the collector

When a collector calls, you should note the date, time, the person you speak with, and the conversation you had with the collector in a log called a collections log. Your log doesn’t need to be elaborate; you can keep one on a notepad or other piece of paper, or you can use your phone or computer. You can identify who is calling you from where and what debt each collector is calling about by keeping a collections diary. It will also enable you to record irregularities in the information collectors provide to you from call to call and keep track of how frequently a specific collector calls.

Keep the voicemails and texts the collector sends if they contain profanity. If you choose to sue the debt collector in court or try to settle the issue, these records may be helpful.

Request it in writing to the collector. (If you want us to stop contacting you, let us know.)

Subject to a few exceptions, a debt collector is required by law to stop contacting you if you ask them to do so, according to the federal FDCPA. You must make your request in writing. You can ask the collection agency to discontinue communicating with you in writing sent by certified mail with return receipt requested (be sure to retain a copy). If the debt collector accepts consumer correspondence through their website or via email, you may also send this message to them in that manner. (However, it is questionable if sending an electronic notification is as trustworthy as sending a paper letter. Sending a real letter is therefore generally ideal.)

But before you tell a collector to stop contacting you, consider twice. A halt communication order might not be in your best interests if you wish to monitor the debt’s status or open up the lines of communication with the collector to discuss a settlement. If you urge the debt collector to stop communicating with you, they are not allowed to do so again unless they are serving you with a lawsuit or pursuing some other legal action. Remember that you can request that the collector cease making certain types of collection contacts, such as calls to particular phone numbers or at particular times of the day.

However, it could be a good idea to inform the debt collector to cease contacting you if you’re considering filing for bankruptcy. An order known as the “automatic stay” is put into effect after you file. Although most collection calls are stopped by the stay, they may still be made before you file.

Inform the debt collector if you think you don’t owe the money

You should explain to the debt collector why you believe the debt is illegitimate or that you do not owe it. Collectors frequently have no idea that your debt may not even be collectible. The debt collector might voluntarily stop trying to collect the debt if your justification is good enough. Their resources might be better directed at customers who don’t have a good reason not to pay the price.

If you move fast, you can ask the debt collector to authenticate the debt in writing, and the collector is required to halt collection efforts while it does so.

If you can’t, let the collector know that you can’t afford to pay.

Just because you can’t pay, a collector doesn’t have to stop attempting to collect. However, informing the collectors that you are unable to pay and briefly outlining your financial challenges may cause them to move on to other clients. Additionally, it can stop your file from being forwarded to a lawyer.

However, be careful not to say anything that could reopen a statute of limitations that has already expired or admit that you owe the obligation. If you make a partial payment on a loan or otherwise admit that you owe an obligation that you haven’t been paying, your state may restart the statute of limitations. In some cases, a fresh promise to pay up a debt could also extend the statute of limitations.

Describe your current address to the collector

Your natural inclination may be to avoid collectors by switching your phone number or withholding your address. However, a collector will still try to collect even if you keep your locations a secret; they will only send letters and place calls to others they believe may know your location or who they believe to be you. It is much easier legally for collectors who don’t know where you are to ask your address of friends or employers for information on you. Talking to coworkers or friends is forbidden if the collector knows where you are located.

When a Debt Collector Calls, Don’t Do These Things

Here’s how not to respond to communications from debt collectors.

Never provide a collector with your financial or personal details.

Even while some debt collectors may claim that they need information about your income to lower your payment amount, you shouldn’t ever provide them any of your private financial information, including:

Bank account numbers, your Social Security number, the quantity or value of the property you own, or your bank account information (unless you’re actually making a payment—even then, you might wish to pay by some other means so the collector doesn’t receive your banking information).

If the creditor or collector wins a judgment against you, they may use this information to garnish your wages, levy your bank account, or place a lien on your property in order to recover money from you.

However, you can disclose certain essential details regarding your financial difficulties.

A “Good Faith” payment is not necessary

A debt collector will frequently request that you pay a little amount out of your own free will rather than as part of a settlement deal. The debtor may claim that making the payment demonstrates your “good faith” behavior. You could believe that paying this payment will protect your credit or stop the debt collector from suing you. It’s untrue. The statute of limitations will be prolonged as a result of this minor contribution. The last payment you made is typically when the statute of limitations period begins to run. No matter how modest, every new payment could start a new limits period.

Make no promises or acknowledge that the debt is valid.

Despite the fact that it is obvious you owe the money, you should avoid saying things like “I know I owe this and will pay you as soon as I can” or “I can start paying you next month.” The statute of limitations could be reinstated if you acknowledge the duty. Any pledge you make to pay a debt could be seen as a new contract, extending the obligation’s statute of limitations.

Maintain your cool

Using foul language, yelling, or acting aggressively won’t help. If call records are required for a legal action, it will be detrimental to your case if you are the abusive party rather than the debt collector.

Additionally, if you lose your composure, you can unintentionally reveal information to the collector that you didn’t intend to.

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