The 5 Best Ways to Get Creditors to Stop Calling You
The 5 Best Ways to Get Creditors to Stop Calling You
You have been paying your bills late. Deciding strategically each month which bills get paid. Then it all catches up with you. Maybe you had to miss extra days of work unexpectedly or lost your job. Whatever the reason, you are no longer able to make the monthly minimums. Then the calls start. First, it is one or two calls a week. Then it is every day, multiple calls each day. You waiver between just putting your phone on silence, afraid to answer the next call, to being scared you will miss an important call regarding a job application, your loved ones, or kids’ school. You wish you could just pay off all your bills and stop the calls. However, unless you win the lottery or get the huge promotion, you know that will not happen soon. Should you change your phone number? Block every call you do not recognize? What can you do to stop the creditors from harassing you? Keep reading for the 5 best ways to get creditors to stop calling you.
Know Your Rights
It is important to know your rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “makes it illegal for debt collectors to use abusive, unfair, or deceptive practices” when they try to collect debts owed to them. If creditors are violating this or other consumer protection laws, like the Arizona Consumer Fraud Act (ACFA), there are steps you can take to protect yourself. If they violate your rights, you can report them. Often times, just knowing your rights will help you feel more confident when you are dealing with the creditors. At the very least, it will help you understand what they legally can and cannot do. It will help you separate fact from fiction.
It is important that you speak with the creditor(s) at least once. You want to make sure the debt is yours. There are situations where creditors have harassed the wrong person, or people have fallen victim to scams. Be very careful in sharing your financial and confidential information with the creditor until you have confirmed it is your debt, the debt is legally collectible, and the creditor is who they say they are. If any doubt, contact a number you already have, for example, from your bill or your account, if you have internet access.
Some important rights to know:
- Creditors cannot contact third parties, except in limited circumstances, regarding the debt you owe. For example, if you hired an attorney to represent you in collection of the debt, they could contact your attorney.
- They cannot even leave you a voicemail regarding your debt without risk of violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, if you share the telephone line / answering machine with other people.
- If you tell them you are not allowed to receive calls at work, they cannot contact you there either. If they are contacting you at work and you want the calls to stop, make sure to explicitly tell them you cannot receive calls at work and to stop contacting you at your work number.
- Creditors cannot call you before 8:00 am or after 9:00 pm unless you explicitly agree to allowing them to contact you outside of the 8:00 am – 9:00 pm hours.
- Do not sign any new documents or make payments without knowing your rights and having an attorney review the documents first. Old debts may no longer be legally collectible. If the statute of limitations has passed, the collection of the debt may be time-barred. However, this will not stop some creditors from calling you and trying to collect the amount owed. If you think the statute of limitations may have ran out, ask the creditor if the debt is barred from collection because the statute of limitations has run out. If your creditor refuses to answer this question, than ask them when your last payment was recorded. This will give you the information you need to confirm with an attorney, if the statute of limitations has run out on your debt, and it is no longer collectible.
- Making payments on old debt or even promising to pay after the statute of limitations has run out can restart the statute of limitations. This is called reviving the debt. This can make debt that could not be collected, legally collectible again.
Request Them to Stop
Yes, it can be that simple. If you want to have a creditor stop harassing you regarding a debt you owe, you do have options.
- Send a letter. You can send a letter to the creditor requesting them to stop contacting you. In case you need it in the future, make sure to keep a copy of the letter and send the original by certified mail with a return receipt to your creditor. This will give you the confirmation that they received your notice requesting them to stop contacting you. After they receive this letter, they can only contact you to notify you that they will stop contacting you or if they are taking a specific action, like taking you to court.
- Hire an attorney. If you hire an attorney to represent you regarding your debt, you can request the creditor contact your attorney directly regarding your the debt you owe rather than contacting you.
- File a bankruptcy petition. When you file a bankruptcy petition, an automatic stay is issued the same day requiring creditors to stop contacting you. If they violate the stay, your attorney can file a motion to have sanctions issued against them. The majority of creditors stop immediately and seldomly is a motion to issue sanctions needed.
Know What Creditors are Not Permitted to Do
It’s equally important to know what creditors are not permitted to do. The FDCPA makes it illegal for creditors to use certain tactics to collect the debt you owe them. The law prevents them from participating in deceitful, intimidating, or unfair practices. So, what does this mean?
- Creditors cannot use unfair practices, such as:
- Collect additional charges in addition to the amount you owe, for example, interest or fees, unless the contract or the state law permits it; or
- Threaten to pick up or actually pick up your property.
- Creditors cannot intimidate you, for example, they cannot:
- Call you constantly, or call you before 8:00 am, or after 9:00 pm;
- Call you at work, if you have told them you cannot receive calls at work;
- Use profanity; or
- Intimidate you with physical harm.
- Creditors cannot use deceitful practices, such as:
- Lie about who they are, who they are calling on behalf of, and why they are calling;
- Lie about the amount of debt you owe; or
- Lie about what legal action will be taken against you.
Although it is important to know your rights, it is equally important to know what creditors cannot do.
If creditors are continuing to call you, one of the simplest solutions is to file bankruptcy. Once your bankruptcy petition is filed, the court will issue an automatic stay order the same day. This order requires creditors to stop contacting you, pending the outcome of bankruptcy court or face sanctions. According to Arizona bankruptcy expert, Attorney Stephen Trezza, 99.9% of creditors stop, once they realize the automatic stay has been issued. If they continue to harass you, they could face sanctions.
Filing bankruptcy can provide you with peace of mind, knowing there is a resolution to your debt woes. However, other than just creditors contacting you, there are other factors to consider in order to determine if filing bankruptcy is the right decision for you. Some red flags that filing bankruptcy might be a good option for you include:
- Considering borrowing or taking money out of your retirement account to pay unsecured debt like credit cards or medical debts;
- Having your income garnished to pay debts;
- Unsecured debts like credit cards, including interest, that will you take you longer than five years to pay off;
- Getting ready to retire and your income is going to be drastically reduced to the point you cannot afford your current bills; or
- Losing your house to foreclosure.
It is important to speak to a bankruptcy specialist. Not all debt is dischargeable through the bankruptcy process, and depending on the type of bankruptcy you file, you may have to repay part (or all) of the debt. Having a review of your individual situation completed by an attorney, who specializes in bankruptcy, is imperative to understanding how bankruptcy will affect the specific debts you have. Most attorneys offer a free consultation to review the facts of your case and answer any questions you may have.
What Happens if They Continue to Call
You’ve written your creditors and ask them to stop calling you. Maybe you have even hired an attorney or filed bankruptcy and still they call. If creditors continue to call you after you have filed bankruptcy, usually it is as easy as giving them your attorney’s name and contact information and bankruptcy case number. Typically, if they have that information, they will stop calling because otherwise they are in violation of the automatic stay order. However, if they continue to call, you do have options, including:
- If you have hired an attorney and filed bankruptcy, have your attorney file a motion to grant sanctions against the creditor for violating the automatic stay order, which is issued the day you file for bankruptcy;
- If you have not hired an attorney or filed bankruptcy, you can report the creditor for violations by contacting:
– Federal Trade Commission (FTC);
– Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB); or
– Your State’s Attorney General Office.; or
- You may sue the creditor for damages in state or federal court. Even if you cannot prove damages, for example, medical bills or lost wages, the court may still award up to $1,000 plus attorney’s fees and court costs.
A Final Note
If creditors are harassing you, you have several options. Do not feel like you are alone, because they are people willing to help. You can write your creditors and request they stop contacting you, file complaints to stop unfair, deceitful, or intimidation practices, or hire an attorney to file bankruptcy on your behalf.
Although bankruptcy is not for everyone, it can provide peace of mind and a fresh start for many families. If you decide that filing bankruptcy is the right decision for you, do not delay. Consulting a bankruptcy attorney early, can potentially save you thousands, especially if your wages are being garnished, you are about to lose your home to foreclosure, or you have assets you want to protect. If you are considering filing bankruptcy, make an appointment with an attorney, who specializes in bankruptcy, to review your options immediately.