Are constant phone calls and letters from debt collectors driving you crazy? You don’t have to put up with the harassment, but you do have to pay your bills. Following are ways to do both.
Know Your Rights
- Bill collectors are only allowed to contact you between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. If a collection agency representative calls you outside those hours, you have a right to complain. First, contact the company. Ask to speak the manager. If that doesn’t work and people continue to hound you at all hours, go straight to the Federal Trade Commission and lodge a complaint.
- Collectors are only allowed to talk to you about personal information. If a bill collector starts speaking to your employer about your outstanding debt, that person is in violation of the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Collectors are allowed to leave messages with a third party or even talk to your neighbors if they can’t find you. But they can not reveal the nature of the call.
- You can tell collectors not to contact you at work. If you inform them in writing that agents are forbidden to contact you at your place of employment, the company has to oblige.
- Collectors can only contact you once a week. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, agents are only allowed to speak with you once every seven days. Attempted calls and phone messages don’t count. “Contact” means actually talking to the customer either on the phone or in person.
Negotiating with Collection Agencies
If a creditor has sent your account to a collections agency, it means you have skipped or been late on a lot of payments over a six month period. The best way to stop the phone calls is to speak directly with the agency manager. Go over with him/her exactly what you can or can not pay and come up with a plan you both can live with. The company’s goal is for you to start paying so they can stop calling.
If You Can’t Make the Payments on Your Own, Seek Help
If you feel overwhelmed with debt and can’t seem to get a handle on it, you might want to contact a reputable consumer credit counseling service. A counselor can help you come up with a debt management plan and negotiate with creditors on your behalf.