Overwhelming debt can make you feel like a criminal. The mail carrier seems to bring only bad news. You may wake up in the middle of the night and check outside to see if the repo company has taken your car. You may hesitate to answer the phone or a knock at the door. You may even be afraid to leave your house.
If you have struggled with debt for a while, you may even begin to feel that it is normal to be looking over your shoulder for the debt collectors. However, this is not normal, and there are certain boundaries debt collectors must obey.
Do this, not that
Many consumers don’t realize that, if you haven’t paid a debt for a certain length of time and your creditor hasn’t taken legal action against you, the debt may expire, preventing the lender from suing you for payment. However, a creditor can pursue payment on a debt you owe, even if the debt has expired, as long as the creditor’s methods don’t break the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. That law prevents creditors from doing any of the following to collect a debt:
- Coming to your place of employment
- Calling you repeatedly throughout the day or outside the acceptable hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Using threats or abusive language when they call
- Publicizing information about your debt
- Threatening to arrest you for your debt
- Bothering you about debts based on inaccurate or incorrect documentation
In your mind, any contact with a debt collector may seem like harassment. However, as long as the collection agents follow the above rules, they can put pressure on you to pay. Some ways they may exert that pressure include:
- Calling you every day
- Sending you frequent letters
- Filing a lawsuit then pursuing a wage garnishment or other legal methods of collection
- Selling your debt to a more aggressive collector
Some days, you may feel bombarded, especially if your troubles include mortgage, medical bills or multiple credit cards. It may seem like there is no way out of your situation, but in reality, you have a number of options. You may try to negotiate with your creditors, and often, they are willing to compromise on what you owe. However, for the best results in these negotiations, many find it helpful to enlist the assistance of a South Carolina professional who has experience dealing with lenders and debt collectors.