Fighting Off the Bill Collectors

Submitted by Jen Jones on Mon, 05/11/2009 - 11:48am

Fighting Off the Bill Collectors

If you're getting regular calls from collection agencies, chances are, you're already in over your head with unmanageable debts, your credit rating has already been marred, and things will just continue to get worse unless you find a way to cut yourself loose. Bankruptcy is the best solution. The moment you file your bankruptcy petition, the calls will stop. The only kind of creditors who use bill collectors are unsecured creditors, like credit card companies, and those creditors are forbidden by law from continuing their collection activities while your bankruptcy case is pending. Even more importantly, by filing bankruptcy, you'll be on your way back to financial freedom, because when the case is done most -“ and possibly all -“ of your bad debts will be gone, forever.

Maybe you're still on the fence about bankruptcy. Or, maybe you've made your decision, but the petition has not yet been filed, and you are still receiving threatening calls from the collectors. In either case, it's important to know your rights under federal law so that you can reduce some of the hassle of dealing with bill collectors.

The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits bill collectors from using abusive and harassing collection practices. Under the FDCPA, bill collectors can't: (1) call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., or at any unreasonable time or place, without your permission; (2) use a false name in communicating with you; (3) make your debt public (though they can contact your spouse, guardian, or attorney about your debt, or other people to get your contact information); (4) threaten to take any action against you that they have no legal right to take and no true intention of taking; or (5) use any other harassing, abusive, oppressive, or deceptive tactics.

The FDCPA also provides that a bill collector must stop communications with you upon your written request. Just send a letter simply stating that, under the FDCPA, 15 USC § 1692c(c), you request the collector cease communications with you regarding the account at issue. It's best to send the letter certified mail, and to send copies to the original creditor and the Federal Trade Commission. Once the bill collector receives this notice, it can only contact you to advise that collection efforts have ceased or that the collector or the original creditor willing be taking a specific action against you, such as filing a lawsuit.

If a bill collector violates any of these rules, you have the right to sue and collect damages. It is important to note that the FDCPA only applies to third party collection agencies; it does not apply to original creditors. However, most states have companion laws that extend to original creditors, prohibiting them from engaging in the same sorts of collection activities. For example, the North Carolina Debt Collection Act applies to all collectors, including the original creditor. You can find out more about the laws in your state by contacting your state attorney general's office or consumer protection agency.

While the FDCPA and similar state laws are certainly important in curbing abusive collection tactics, if you're a regular target of bill collectors, these laws will only treat the symptoms of a much larger problem: unmanageable debts. The problem won't go away, but will continue to spiral out of control until you take action to cut yourself loose from the bad debts -- once and for all. Bankruptcy is the answer. It will treat the problem and give you the fresh start you need to take back control over your life. Contact the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt today, with offices in Raleigh, Durham, Wilson and Fayetteville.

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