Debt collection is an $11.5 billion industry that affects millions of Americans. According to the Federal Trade Commission, about 28 percent of consumers with a credit file are listed as having collection efforts for a third party debt. Additionally, a recent survey found that approximately one-in-three consumers with a credit file have been contacted by at least one creditor or collector trying to collect one or more debts.
Unfortunately, many of these collection efforts that begin as legal attempts to collect money, turn into cases of harassment. Luckily there are laws to protect consumers from this behavior and steps that can be taken to stop debt collectors in their tracks.
If you have been subjected to creditor harassment, call the Law Office of Robert B. Dunlap immediately. I will consult with you personally and help guide you toward the proper course of action to restrain or silence these harassing creditors using all legal protections afforded you. I represent clients in Shreveport and surrounding areas including Minden, Bossier City, and Mansfield, Louisiana.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) sets limits on what creditors can legally do in attempting to collect a debt. A collector is required to send you a written “validation notice” within five days of first contacting you. The notice is required to include:
The FDCPA defines creditor harassment with these examples:
The creditor is also barred from making misleading representations, including the amount owed, and using threats to have you arrested or do other things that are not legal.
Under the FDCPA, you not only have the right to request creditors to stop harassing tactics but also the right to sue for damages. However, even if the court finds the creditor guilty of harassing tactics, it doesn’t affect the amount owed on the debt.
One option for stopping the harassing behavior is to have your attorney send a letter by mail asking for contact to stop. Once received, the collector must cease all contact unless it’s for a specific reason such as confirming receipt of your request or telling you that legal action will be taken. Furthermore, once notified that you are represented by an attorney, the collector is required to communicate with your legal counsel instead of you unless your attorney fails to respond to them within a reasonable period of time.
Another option to stop harassing creditor calls is to file for bankruptcy. If you file for bankruptcy protection, you will be granted what is called an automatic stay, and your creditors can no longer contact you. If you file through an attorney, the creditors must work solely through your attorney and the bankruptcy system. If a creditor ignores the automatic stay, that is another form of harassment that your attorney can address for you.
There are basically two forms of bankruptcy protection for the average consumer. Chapter 13 reorganizes your debts and sets a fixed monthly payment amount to allow you to emerge from under your debt load within a reasonable amount of time. Usually, your debts are reduced considerably in the process. Chapter 7, in contrast, generally wipes out all of your debts and the court may liquidate your assets to pay them off.
Dealing with creditors can be intimidating and complex. An experienced creditor harassment attorney who understands the laws that protect consumers can guide you through the filing process and help you negotiate the best possible arrangement for your unique financial situation.
Furthermore, working with a seasoned attorney means that you no longer have to handle any ongoing creditor harassment. Your attorney can advise you on how to rebuild your credit, avoid common pitfalls, and take precautions as you proceed down your new path of financial freedom.