The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act prohibits certain types of “abusive and deceptive” behavior by collectors:
- They must cease tying to communicate with you after you’ve given written notice that you wish no further communication or refuse to pay.
- Hours for contacting you: 8 PM to 9 PM (Your local time).
- Contacting a consumer that is represented (by an attorney or credit counseling service).
- Causing The phone to ring repeatedly and excessively or engaging with a person excessively with the intent to annoy, abuse, or harass.
- Contacting you at work after being told it is unacceptable, or prohibited by your employer.
- Submitting you to a “bad debt list”.
- Deception ( E.g. claiming a warrant or summons is issued).
- Bogus or unjustified amounts.
- Cursing, threatening or calling a third-party for reasons other than location.
They are also required to:
- Give the name and address of the original creditor
- Verify the debt
- Inform you of your right to dispute the debt
- Identify themselves and disclose that it is an attempt to collect a debt.
- File lawsuit in the proper place (where you are).
Knowing the FDCPA lets you know the difference between harassment and a Collector who is doing his/ her job. You have the right to fair treatment and respect, despite your circumstances. In fact, there are legal ramifications for Collectors that violate. I urge you to take careful notes and or record instances where a Collector violates these rules. It is your right not be shameed or helpless because your circumstances are such that you have neglected to pay.
But… Knowing the rules is just half of the battle. You must know your part in the solution.
First of all go back to the very day that you took out the loan for your car, your mortgage, the various items you purchased on your credit card. The other items that you just had to have, but didn’t save for. Despite all that has happened to bring you to the point of harassing calls, you never intended to default did you? You made decisions that justified accumulating debt. Move past that.
Now you just need some time to figure out how you are going to take care of the mess. I have been there and thought the same things. I believe that no one intends on becoming delinquent, they are simply a victim of their own bad behavior. Which usually causes any interaction with a Collector to seem unpleasant. You feel harassed.
Secondly, change your bad behavior. It’s said (and I believe it’s true) that budgeting is 80% behavior and 20% knowledge. This article provides you with the meat of the knowledge you need. You can review it as many times you need. The rules of the FDCPA are clear, knowing them does empower you. Again it is your right to be treated with respect as it relates to your debt.
The other 80% is completely up to you. Get your financial habits under control and do it without delay. I am a huge fan of Dave Ramsey and his baby step program. I will say that it matters not what program you start just start one now.
In his baby step program, step 1 is completing a written budget every month, and saving $1,000 as quickly as you can for a (baby) Emergency Fund. You can check out the rest of his program for yourself ( a God send for me). Read his book Total Money Makeover. For now let’s just focus on what your budget and your Emergency Fund do for you as it relates to an empowered state of mind while dealing with Collectors.
Are you going to pay a bill that is not a necessity, if it leaves you with nothing in the event of an emergency? Absolutely not. Similarly, are you more likely to pay a bill that you have planned for provided paying it doesn’t leave you penniless? Probably.
Your mindset (behavior) allows you to address your finances when you take the proper steps. The calls which you take from Collectors will be with the proper perspective. All of the components will be in place for you to engage the Collector with the correct information. What date between now and never can you pay?
The Take away:
- You most likely know the amount of your next paycheck and when you will get it. Before you get it, complete a written budget.
- Know your rights. The FDCPA doesn’t absolve you from paying your debts. It does however allow you to fearlessly communicate and negotiate with your Collectors. Make it a point to embrace doing so.
- Figure out how you can save a (temporary) Emergency Fund as quickly as you can. It should take about 2 – 4 paychecks.
- Confidently make arrangements with your Collectors once you have a written budget that dictates a reasonable timeline for repayment.
- Negotiate successful settlements that are win- win situations for you and The Collector.
Knowledge is key. The FDCPA protects your interests in that it dictates how Collectors must treat your debt (and you). Change the way you view your situation, how to rise above it and the relationship that should exist between you and the Collectors. You will find yourself debt free in no time.