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Your Rights When Fighting Debt Collectors

Your Rights When Fighting Debt Collectors
by Meiling Hunter
Debt Relief Options Columnist

It can be stressful to have debt collectors hounding you for money. Although your situation -- complete with budget-busting credit card debt and overdue bills -- may seem hopeless, there is a way out of your financial quagmire. Knowing your rights can help you fight the unscrupulous practices of some debt collectors.

Fair Treatment Required
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collectors are required to treat you fairly when trying to collect payments. They are not supposed to call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you have agreed to allow it. Debt collectors should not discuss your debt with friends and family, but they can call those people to ask for your phone number or address. If you are being harassed, write a letter to the debt collector requesting that they stop contacting you. You can stop unwelcome communication, but you'll still have to pay any debts you owe.

No Dirty Tactics
Some debt collectors use dirty tactics to scare people into paying their debts. Among the tactics that debt collectors cannot use are:

  • Threats and intimidation
  • Obscene language
  • Saying you'll be arrested
  • Threatening lawsuits with no real intent of following through
  • Fake names
  • Falsely implying you've committed a crime
You can report debt collectors who behave improperly to your state Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission.

 

Debt Relief Options
Even if you stop debt collectors from harassing you that doesn't mean you're not liable for the money you owe. If you're in over your head and don't know what to do, you may need help. Be proactive about investigating debt relief options so that you can avoid bankruptcy, foreclosure, and completely ruining your credit rating.

Credit Counseling Can Help
A reputable credit counseling service may be able to help you set up a budget and learn how to handle money more responsibly. Credit counseling can also help you work through some of the issues that led to your financial woes. If you have a high level of debt you may be able to qualify for a debt management plan. Enrolling in a debt management plan means consolidating your debts and making monthly payments to the credit counseling agency, which will then pay out those funds to your creditors. Credit counselors may be able to negotiate with debt collectors to lower the total balance due and give you some debt relief. Credit counseling also can help you avoid bankruptcy, and is in fact required before you can start bankruptcy proceedings.

Whether you have secured or unsecured debts, it's important to make payments on time to avoid being harassed by creditors. But just because you may have a lot of debt doesn't mean you have no rights. Don't go into panic mode and spend a lot of time dodging bill collectors. If you take the responsible approach and offer to work with them to get your debts paid you'll be better off in the long run.

Source
Federal Trade Commission
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