Good people go through tough financial times. There are some things that cannot be avoided and other lessons that must be learned along the way. You failed to make some payments when you were out of work or needed to buy medicines instead. Now the phones are ringing and collectors want to reach you. It is important to know your rights. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act was set up to protect all consumers, even those with financial troubles. The document is fairly long and can be a little confusing to read. Know your basic fundamental rights when it comes to dealing with debt collectors.
-They may not verbally threaten you in any way
-They may not garnish your wages without a court order
-They may not call your work if you have asked them to stop
-No repetitive calling tactics
-They may not call before 9am or after 8pm
-Cannot give out debt information if contacting friends, family or co-workers
-Collectors must honor a written request to stop contact attempts
-Collectors must verify debt if disputed
-Collector must send written notice of all debt information within 5 days after calls begin.
You can take control of the situation no matter what debt you owe. Get a copy of your credit report to verify dates and amounts against the notices sent to you. Annualcreditreport.com will provide a free report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months. If you are receiving calls from a collector for a payday loan lending service, the debt will not be found on your credit report until the collector reports it. If you do have a short-term loan in default, call the payday loan lender directly to find out last due date amount and while you are at it, see if it may not be too late to work something out with them instead of the collector. You may have missed the mark already, but it is a good strategy to keep in mind to prevent any future bad debt from going to a collection agency.
1. Keep track of all calls and letters. Document days and times and save every notice you receive for each debt.
2. Collectors must send a validation notice within 5 days after first contacting you by phone. If you disposed of it by mistake or now realize you don’t have it, request a copy to keep for your records.
3. Match their records to your credit report. If the debt is not yours, report the identity theft case to the Federal Trade Commission. Send a letter to the collector disputing the debt along with a copy of your report.
4. Send a certified letter to the collectors to request that they stop calling or sending letters. The letter must be clearly written and collectors must follow it unless they take legal action against you.
5. Negotiate a deal. Haggle with the collectors as you would a salesman. Start low in order to leave bargaining room. Many collectors are willing to accept low amounts as something is better than nothing.
Be proactive. If you know that there are pending troubles, contact the creditor or lender right away to avoid or at least defer any collections. If collectors do get involved, let them know right away that you know your rights and will report them if they try to harass you. Having money problems does not make you an automatic target for negative interactions from anyone.