When you’re dealing with debt, one of the most stressful things can be the constant harassment from debt collectors via phone calls and letters. Fortunately, you do have some rights and protection as you deal with them.
Debt collectors are required to follow certain guidelines as they attempt to collect outstanding debts. They are set out in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. For example, they can’t call before 8:00am or after 9:00pm. They also must stop harassing phone calls if you have requested they do so.
The full text of the Fair Debt Collection Practices is available at the following website:
There are a few ways to deal with debt collectors under these rules. The simplest is to simply not answer the call. If you have caller ID on your phone and don’t recognize who’s calling, don’t answer. If it turns out to be somebody you would like to talk to, he or she can leave a message.
If you do answer the call and it turns out to be a debt collector, you can insist that they stop calling you. This should be followed up with a “cease and desist” letter physically sent to them, via certified or registered mail so you have proof they have received it. Debt collectors are legally obligated to stop calling if they receive one of these.
The most obvious and effective option for dealing with debt collectors is to actually pay the debt. After all, you agreed to pay the debt when you acquired it and you therefore should repay the creditor who lent you the money. You should still pay it even if you have told debt collectors to stop calling you.
If you are unable to repay the debt in full at once for some reason, you may be able to negotiate a reduced interest rate or partial repayment if you explain your situation. Keep in mind, however, that telling a creditor you’ve run up debt by doing too much unnecessary shopping is not going to gain you much sympathy. On the other hand, if you’ve just been fired from your job and are going through legitimately difficult financial times while you look for another, this will likely give you some room for negotiation.
If you do negotiate a better deal with your creditors, be sure to keep your word and pay what you’ve said you would. While bill collectors may seem relentlessly cruel, they’re really just there to collect the money you owe. That’s their job. Once you have made arrangements with creditors to repay what you owe them and have shown that you can be trusted to keep your word, bill collectors will move onto other people and leave you alone.