When you're deep in debt, every phone call sounds like a debt collector calling to ask you about overdue bills and late payments. But when they start harassing you with calls, that's when you can put your foot down.
Companies have the right to collect the debts you owe, but they have to be fair about it. That means there are limits on what they can do to get the money from you.
Of course, knowing what those are is easier said than done. No debt collector is going to explain the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act to you. But here are some of the things they can't do, no matter how deep in debt you are:
- Calling at unusual times. If a debt collector is going to call, he can't do it too early, like before 8 a.m., or too late, like after 9 p.m. The law presumes those calls are unreasonable.
- Being abusive on the phone. Being in debt doesn't mean you are less of a person. The debt collector can't treat you like that either, so abusive or threatening language is not allowed.
- Talking to other people. Your debt is a private matter which means collectors can't discuss it with other people like your boss, your neighbors, or your children. The only people who can discuss your debt are you, your spouse, and your attorney.
- Lying. This may seem like an obvious answer, but you'd be surprised how many debt collectors would try to stretch the truth if this rule weren't in place -- and how many still try.
- Ignoring your request to cease communication. If you give the collection company written notice that you won't talk about the debt anymore, they have to abide by that. Further phone calls are prohibited, except to say the collection has ended or that the collector is pursuing other legal means to get the money.
The other way to get a debt collector off your back is to hire an attorney. Not only will you get some help with your debt situation, once you have legal representation the debt collector must go through your lawyer and leave you alone.