Collection agencies can make your life miserable. They may call your house and place of business or send threatening letters. Collections agencies acquire debts from original creditors. But rather than suffer through constant harassment from a collection agency, you can take several steps to deal with these agencies and stop relentless telephone calls. Collection agencies must adhere to certain laws, and debtors have certain rights. Knowing your rights can help you deal with collection agencies and quickly stop abuse.
Acknowledge the debt and submit full payment. Instead of dodging collection accounts and telephone calls, admit to owing the debt and then send a payment to pay off the balance and stop collection attempts.
Agree to installment payments. If you owe a large debt and can't pay off the balance with a single payment, negotiate with collection agencies and propose sending installment payments for a specific number of months.
Ask to settle the debt. Debt settlements can cause further credit damage because you didn't fully satisfy a debt obligation. But if you can't pay a huge balance, the agency may agree to accept less than the balance owed -- something is better than nothing, especially if you're contemplating bankruptcy. Get settlement agreements in writing before mailing your payment.
Request debt validation. This method involves the collection agency providing written proof that you owe a specific debt. They must supply this information upon request from debtors or cease collection attempts.
Deal with harassment and stop non-stop calls. Collection agencies must stop telephoning your home or work upon written request. Keep a copy of the letter and send the original through certified mail.
File bankruptcy to stop harassment. Bankruptcy laws prevent creditors and collection agencies from pursuing debt collection or lawsuits once a debtor files bankruptcy.
Research the statue of limitations for your state. Before agreeing to pay a collection account, consult a lawyer for information on the statue of limitation for your state, which prevents agencies from pursuing debt collection in court past a certain number of years. The statue of limitation for each type of debt varies for each state.
Debt collectors may only telephone your home between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. A debt collector may contact family or friends to verify your contact information, but they cannot identify themselves as a collector or discuss the debt with others. According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, debt collection agencies cannot harass, threaten, use obscene language or misrepresent themselves in their attempts to collect debt. Report abuse or illegal practices to The Federal Trade Commission. Collection accounts and other unpaid accounts, such as judgments and charge-offs, remain on your credit report for seven years; bankruptcy stays on reports for 10 years. While agencies and creditors cannot sue past the statue of limitations, they can continue to write letters or call to urge you to pay an old debt. The statue of limitations starts from the date of last account activity or from the date that you agree to pay a debt.
- Bankrate.com; Demand Debt Verification Before Bankruptcy; Justin Harelik; March 2011
- Bankrate.com; Debt, Collection Agencies and Your Rights; Steve Bucci; August 2006
- Bankrate.com; Check Statue of Limitations on Old Debt; Steve Bucci; June 2010
- Federal Trade Commission: Debt Collection FAQs -- A Guide for Consumers
- Bankruptcy Law Network; Is There A Time Limit for Collecting A Debt?; Chip Parket
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