An Echo Press Editorial: How to deal with debt collectors
By the Echo Press Editorial Board
Are you afraid to pick up the phone, thinking it may be an aggressive debt collector?
You're not alone. Many people in Douglas County are in that kind of financial straits, along with millions of others at the state and national level. The reasons why people fall into serious debt run the gamut — unexpected medical bills, loss of a job, house or vehicle repairs, a divorce, and especially lately, inflationary increases.
Yes, you do owe the money but you also have rights as a consumer to be treated with respect and dignity.
A national nonprofit credit counseling agency, Take Charge America, issued a news release that explains consumers’ rights and offers tips to combat harassment from debt collectors.
“Nobody should be afraid to pick up their phone or be on the receiving end of bullying or threatening language. But relief is much closer than many people may think,” said Amy Maliga, a financial educator with Take Charge America. “When you understand how debt collection works, you can leverage that knowledge to find peace of mind as you work to become debt-free.”
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects individuals from debt collector harassment and dictates how collection agencies can interact with people. To help individuals regain control of debt collector calls, Maliga shares five key actions to take:
- Check their facts. Ask for written verification of the debt amount and additional details, including the name of the original creditor and instructions on how to dispute the debt if you question its validity. By law, collection agencies must provide this information within five days of your request. Never provide sensitive financial details over the phone.
- Keep detailed records. Keep track of every letter, email and phone call you have with debt collectors. These will come in handy if you must file a complaint or prove you paid the debt if another agency tries to collect on it in the future.
- Take control of communication. You have the right to dictate how debt collectors can communicate with you. You can make the request via email or letter. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers letter templates to help communicate with debt collectors in writing.
- File a complaint. If a collection agency remains aggressive or blatantly violates the FDCPA, you can file a complaint online with the CFPB or by phone at 855-411-2372. You will receive email updates and can check the status of your complaint on the CFPB website.
- Explore credit counseling. If you’re overwhelmed by collection calls, you may find relief with nonprofit credit counseling. After going through a free credit counseling session online or over the phone, you’ll receive an action plan with customized solutions, possibly including a debt management plan. To learn more about Take Charge America, visit takechargeamerica.org or call (888) 822-9193.
Sometimes, that rising debt load may seem insurmountable but step-by-step you can bring down your debt and get out of financial trouble, even if it requires bankruptcy options.
Just remember, you have the right to whittle down your debt and regain your financial independence without having to deal with endless calls and harassment from overly aggressive debt collectors.