Protecting Yourself From Debt Collectors

Have you got debt collection companies calling you in the wee hours of the morning, through to the late hours in the night?

Debt collectors can be pervasive, persistent, and sometimes – pretty abusive – with their tactics.

Why do debt collectors harass you?

Because they’re out to profit. Many of these debt collection companies bought your debt from large financial corporations (e.g. VISA), and usually at a reasonable price.

If they can get those debts paid, they stand to make quite a bit of cash.

Naturally, they’ll use almost any technique in the book to have your debt paid in full.

Are debt collectors harassing you?

First of all, let’s establish common, but harassing behavior from debt collectors. This is the sort of behavior that you should stand up against, and protect yourself from:

  • Calls to your cell.
    • Legally, debt collectors can only call your landline – not a cell number. Remind them of this if they’re calling your mobile regularly.
  • Incessant calls despite you telling them to no longer call you.
    • Debt collectors are not allowed to continue to call you once you request they stop. To make it even more legally official, send the debt collectors a ‘drop dead letter’.
  • Calls outside of normal hours
    • Debt collectors are legally obliged to avoid calling you before 8am, and after 9pm.
  • They threaten you (and your contacts) with jail time, or publication of your name and the debts you owe.
    • This goes without saying, but this is an abusive technique that is not legal. Your debt collectors are lying to you when they make these sorts of threats.
  • They pretend to be an attorney, or government agency
    • Obviously this is a deception, and is very illegal. This is where recording your calls (as we mention in tips on how to deal, below) will come in handy.
  • Claiming that papers they send you are legal forms (when they are not) and vice versa
    • Be careful when dealing with documentation received from debt collectors. Get legal advice if you have to.

How to protect yourself from debt collectors:

  • Know your rights.
    • The USA’s consumer protection agency, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), enforces the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which protects you from debt collectors using abusive techniques such as harassment, or deception.
  • Keep a paper trail
    • Keep all email and snail mail communications safe. You may need to refer to them later. Record your phone conversations with your debt collectors, just in case they do anything illegal.
  • Send a ‘drop dead letter’
    • If you want to stop all communications from your debt collector, you can send a ‘drop dead letter’. If a debt collector continues to contact you about your debt after you have sent this letter, you can report the company to the Consumer Financial Protection bureau.
  • Settle your debt
    • If your debt is over 3-4 years old, it may fall outside the statute of limitations, in which case you are not obliged to settle it. This can vary state to state, so make sure to confirm the details. It’s important to note that although a 4 year old debt falls outside the statute of limitations, it will still affect your credit for up to 7 years.
    • If you decide to settle the debt, make sure you pay only by money order. If you give a collector your banking details, you may find they take more money than they originally stated they would.
    • Having said that, never settle a debt until you have a payment agreement in writing – stating how much is expected to settle the debt, fully.

Just because you owe a debt, that doesn’t mean you have to put up with harassment.

If debt collectors are using abusive, and manipulative tactics to pressure you into settling your debt, know that you have the upper hand in the situation.

Always know your rights, always ask for written confirmation, and only settle your debt if you’re happy with the confirmed agreement, and are able to resolve the debt in full.

It’s your debt, so deal with it on your terms.

Want more advice about getting debt collectors off your back?
Talk with our banking law experts for FREE.

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