When it comes to harassing debt collectors, know your rights

It is a moment that every in-debt person fears: your cellphone rings and the number is unrecognizable. What’s the most likely reason for the call? Sure, it could be a distant family member — or maybe the job offer you have always wanted is just on the other end of the line. But the reason you are receiving this call is almost certainly because a debt collector is trying to garner the funds you owe.

Debt collectors can resort to some pretty abhorrent tactics to try and get you to pay up. Calling you is well within their rights, but there are major limitations on how often they call when they call and how they can represent themselves when they are on the phone with you.

For example, debt collectors are allowed to call you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. in your time zone. But, if you inform them that you are not able to take such calls at work, they cannot attempt to call you again during work hours.

Debt collectors are also barred from representing themselves as some superior authority, such as law enforcement. This is an aggressive and manipulative tactic that can cause the in-debt party to suffer huge amounts of stress and begin to fear for their well-being. Just like the time frame of which debt collectors are allowed to call, misrepresentation over the phone is illegal per the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Sometimes, the best route of this debt collection nightmare is to declare for bankruptcy. Those who declare for bankruptcy are given an “automatic stay,” which bars debt collectors from contacting you. You can then use the bankruptcy to reorganize payment plans, to discharge certain debts and ultimately get back on stable financial footing.

Source: ABC 15, “Is it legal for a debt collector to call you at work?” Rachel Mason, Jan. 4, 2013

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