Filing for bankruptcy is one way to stop harassing phone calls and letters from debt collectors, but it is not the only solution. Bankruptcy is not a good fit for everybody with debt problems. Perhaps your debts are not large enough to justify going through bankruptcy, or you would rather try to other options to try to protect your credit rating.
But in the short term, stopping the harassment is very important. Though there are laws restricting what debt collection agencies can do, many collectors ignore the law and use abusive tactics to try to frighten or wear out their victims. Sometimes, they even go after people who do not owe as much as the debt collector claims, if they owe anything at all.
We have discussed the Fair Debt Collection Practice Act in this blog before. As a reminder, this is a federal law that protects consumers from unfair harassment. Among the tricks that are illegal under the Act are:
- Calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Calling repeatedly or continuously.
- Making threats about wage garnishment, arrest, etc.
- Calling at work after the debtor asked them not to.
- Calling the debtor’s neighbors or publishing his or her name or address, embarrassing him or her.
You can ask the debt collectors nicely to stop violating your rights, but many times that will not work. Instead, with the help of an attorney, you can sue to enforce the Act. A successful lawsuit can lead to damages of $1,000, plus force the debt collector to pay your attorneys fees.
It may not even come to that. Often, just receiving a letter from an attorney explaining that a client knows his or her rights will be enough to get a debt collection agency to stop with the harassment.