The following is a guest post from fellow blogger Jerry Coffey of Repaid.org. If you are interested in guest posting, please see our guest posting guidelines.
Having debts you’re struggling to pay is a sad state of affairs, and non-stop phone calls from debt collectors only makes the situation worse. Unchecked, your phone may ring every couple of hours all day long and well into the night. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to stop collection calls.
Answer The Phone
Ignoring the calls will not help. Debt collectors have nothing else to do but hassle you, so talk to them. Keep a pencil and paper handy, though. Ask what specific debt the company is trying to collect. Get the name of the company, your account number, the company’s address, its phone number, and the name of the person that you are speaking to. Collection agencies are required to provide this information. After getting all of that info, clearly state that the company is to stop contacting you by phone. Be sure to emphasize that they are not to call you at home or at work. Do not give any personal information, and do not acknowledge or make a payment on the debt at this time. You need to confirm that you’re dealing with a legitimate collection agency and a valid, unexpired debt. By acknowledging the debt or making a payment, you could risk reaffirming a debt that’s actually past the statute of limitations (SOL).
Verify The Company
Scams are everywhere. Debt collection scams abound. A simple internet research should show you whether the company is legitimate or not. You may find that the company exists, but at a different address than the one you were given. This is a sure sign that someone is trying to run a scam on you. You can also check your state’s Department of Consumer Affairs and/or State Attorney’s office to determine if the company is licensed in your state. If they claim to be associated with an attorney’s office, you can check with the state bar association. Collectors must send you a written confirmation of the debt within five days of their first call. This letter should include all of the company’s contact information.
Send a Letter
Believe it or not, some debt collectors (real or scam) will keep calling you after you ask them to stop. Yes, that was tongue in cheek. You will need to send a cease and desist letter to the company. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors must stop collection calls if you send a cease and desist letter, but not until they receive the letter. Send your letter certified mail. Here is a sample letter:
City, State Zip
Debt Collector’s Name
City, State Zip
Re: Account Number
Dear Debt Collector:
Pursuant to my rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, I request that you cease and desist communication with me, along with my family and friends, in relation to this and all other alleged debts which you are claiming that I owe.
If you do not comply with this request, I will immediately file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and the [your state here] Attorney General’s office, and civil and criminal claims will be pursued.
File a Complaint
If the company does not stop calling or if you suspect that there is a scam afoot, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). You should also contact your state’s Attorney General. Most states now allow you to submit complaints electronically. If you mail in your complaint form, don’t send the originals of any documents you want to include. Send copies and keep the originals for your own records.
Get a Lawyer
Occasionally even a legitimate company will continue to violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The only way to stop this is to sue. A sad aspect of the debt collection industry is that there are very few ethical companies in the business, so you must take away their profits to get them to reevaluate their tactics. There are many attorneys that will give you a free consultation, so set up an appointment to find out if you have a case or not. You can simply search Google for an “FDCPA attorney” in your area.
Hopefully, you will find a few of these tips helpful and be able to put a stop to those annoying phone calls. Once you do, you’ll be in a much better position to begin taking control of your finances and eliminating your debt!
This is a guest post from Jerry Coffey, who blogs over at Repaid.org. After years as a “debtaholic,” Jerry paid off more than $10,000 in credit card debt in just over two years through smart budgeting and frugal living. You can follow Repaid.org on Twitter @RepaidOrg.