If, like many, you are struggling with debt and are behind on payments, you may be stressed out by all of the calls you are receiving from your creditors. While it is normal and expected for debtors to receive calls or notices in the mail or email from their creditors and debt collectors, it is not okay for them to harass you or intimidate you.
Creditor harassment is unlawful, and there are many other things that debt collectors don’t want debtors to know to make it easier for them to get away with things they aren’t supposed to.
This is why it is crucial for you as a debtor to know your rights and understand what is and is not okay when it comes to debt collection. This may be a stressful and scary time, but it does not have to overwhelm and ruin your life. Taking steps to understand your rights and the legalities surrounding debt collection can help you better navigate the situation.
Below are the top five things that creditors and debt collectors don’t want you to know, as these tips can help you stand up for yourself against them:
1. Debt Collectors Cannot Call Repeatedly
Initially, debt collectors will most likely try to call you several times a day, every day, and at all hours. However, you are technically in control and can dictate how and when they contact you. Constantly calling you can be construed as harassment, especially if you have already asked them not to. To ensure this doesn’t happen, record your calls and ask them to politely only contact you at your preferred method and time. For example, you could ask them to only email or mail you or ask them not to call at certain times of the day or on certain days.
2. Debt Collectors Cannot Threaten You
In some situations, debt collectors may use intimidation tactics and threats to scare you into paying, but this is unlawful. Collection agencies are not allowed to claim that you have committed a crime and will be arrested if you don’t pay what you owe, nor can they threaten to ruin your life or shame you in public.
By law, debt collectors can only discuss your debt with you, your spouse, or your attorney. They can contact others to track you down, but they may only ask for your address, phone number, and place of employment—they cannot discuss anything beyond that about your debt.
3. You Can Negotiate Directly With the Creditor
Often, creditors will hire third-party collection agencies to handle their debt collection. Though collection agencies can offer to help you resolve the debt, it is sometimes better to negotiate directly with the creditor as it can result in a more affordable payment option and avoid unnecessary collector fees.
After a debt collector has spoken to you initially about the situation, you can inform them that you are going to speak with your creditor first. However, keep in mind that if the debt is more than six months past the due date, the creditor does have the right to refuse to work with you directly.
4. You Can Often Negotiate a Lower Settlement Amount
Debt collectors will initially try to collect all of the debt you owe, as this is their job. However, most collectors are authorized to settle on a reduced rate. In some cases, you can have the total amount of debt reduced by 15 to 35%. However, it’s important to note that settlement amounts are typically required to be paid in full. You will likely not be offered a new repayment plan but instead will be asked to pay the new reduced amount in full.
5. There is a Statute of Limitations on Debt
You should never agree to a reduced settlement amount or a new repayment plan before checking on the statute of limitations on your debt. Debt collectors will never willingly inform you upfront about the statute of limitations, but it does exist. After so many years, debt collection can be barred and no longer allowed if the statute of limitations is passed. For example, there are cases where a debt collector may call after 5, 10, or 15 years to try to collect on a debt that is no longer valid. That debt may still exist, but they are no longer allowed to collect on it if it passes the statute of limitations.
How Sawin & Shea, LLC Can Help
At Sawin & Shea, we believe in providing compassionate and understanding representation to those struggling with debt. If you feel that you are being harassed by a debt collector or have any other questions or concerns about your debt and how to manage it, contact the attorneys at Sawin & Shea, LLC. We can offer you guidance and support to ensure the best possible outcome.