While you are trying to figure out how to get out of debt; you may fall victim to unscrupulous collection efforts. Collection companies make their money by purchasing debt for pennies on the dollar and then in turn collecting as much of the debt owed as possible. They also contract with companies to collect debt for a fee. Either way, debt collection is a lucrative business as long as the collectors are actually collecting on the debt owed. This gives a powerful incentive to the collection company to take an “any means necessary” approach when trying to get people to pay. Sadly there are many, many instances of collectors going outside the bounds of the law and the consumers on the receiving end suffering. These practices are illegal and you have recourse. This is one of the many things debt collectors didn’t want you to know. Read on for the most blatant debt collectors’ abuses and how to protect yourself.
Debt collectors may forcefully try to collect a debt that is not actually owed
Determined collectors have pursued debt without verifying it is legitimate to such an extent that the federal government is now getting involved. Currently, the burden to prove that a debt is no longer owed or is incorrectly assigned falls to the consumer; however the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is hoping to change that. They are currently working to change the law and put the burden of proof onto the collection agency. Can you imagine being called daily and receiving demanding letters constantly insisting you pay for a debt you don’t actually owe? Depending on the amount due some people may decide to pay the collector just to make the collection efforts stop.
There are several instances when you may not actually owe the debt that is attempted to be collected. It may be as simple as a misunderstanding and you never incurred in the debt in the first place. Or, if you have declared bankruptcy, it is possible the debt was discharged and is no longer collectible. In addition, your debt may no longer be owed if it has exceeded the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations can vary by state and certain actions on your part, such as making a partial payment, could reset the clock. If you believe you are being sued for a debt that is not yours or is no longer collectible please consult with a debt attorney immediately.
Debt collectors have two challenging jobs: finding you and convincing you to pay
One example of the many debt collector abuses is to bully not just you, but the people around you such as your family members. Collectors are legally barred from disclosing information about your debt to neighbors, family or coworkers. Nonetheless, there are horror stories of debt collectors telling children about their parent’s debts or reporting debt to an employer. While debt collectors can reach out to people you know in an effort to find your contact information, that’s all they’re allowed to do.
Debt collector abuses to the extreme might include threats
A known practice is to make false threats, such as saying you will go to jail if you do not pay. They may also threaten to sue you or garnish your wages. Legally a debt collector cannot make any threat they do not actually intend to carry out. Financial matters are civil and not criminal so you cannot go to jail for non-payment of a debt, excluding child support. You can be sued and if a judgement is issued against you your wages can be garnished but both of those things take time and have to go through the courts. Read more here for other debt collection tactics.
Some collectors will contact you to the point of harassment in an effort to convince you to pay
You have the right to ask collectors to stop contacting you at which point they legally have to comply. There are a few exceptions to this; they can call to notify you that they are no longer pursuing payment or that they are going to sue you. Collectors are not allowed to call at inconvenient times or harass you at work. If you do receive a call at the office, make sure you tell the collector you are not allowed to receive calls at your place of business. They are also not allowed to contact you if you have a lawyer. Again, you need to communicate that you have legal representation and instruct the collector to contact your attorney moving forward.
Debt collection agencies can be abusive and cross the line in their pursuit of payment
Take heart, there are things you can do to protect yourself. You can be your own best advocate by researching and documenting. You are in the best position to know the details of the debt owed. Document as much as you are able about the debt incurred and about the collection efforts. Collectors by law are required to disclose the name of the person contacting you, the name of the collection company, and the fact that they are attempting to collect a debt. You need to have evidence to prove any of the above abuses. If possible, record debt collector calls, keep copies of all correspondence and document everything.
The most direct strategy to combat a collection company is to hire an experienced attorney. As soon as you are represented by counsel you are no longer subjected to the debt collector’s efforts. Also, your debt attorney will make sure that the collection agencies efforts are within the bounds of the law and protect you from abusive practices.
Kevin Fallon McCarthy
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