Phone ringing with harassing calls from debt collectors?
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Have you ever received a bill in the mail from a company whose name you don’t know in an amount that makes no sense to you? That may be the first contact from a debt buyer. Then the phone calls begin. Debt buyers are some of the most aggressive debt collectors because they are collecting for themselves unlike a debt collection firm hired by the original creditor. Here are your options if a debt buyer begins harassing you.
What Is a Debt Buyer?
A debt buyer is a company that buys delinquent debt for pennies on the dollar with the intent to aggressively collect. It’s a profitable business model but often crosses the lines and violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Debt is often sold off in portfolios of thousands of accounts. Sometimes, it’s resold more than once, and you may have several debt collectors hassling you about the same original debt.
Shady Debt Buyer Tactics
Debt buyers typically take the most aggressive route to get as much money as they can in the fastest way possible. One tactic is harassing phone calls. They may call, make threats, and do all they can to scare you into making the largest lump sum payment possible to avoid other consequences they promise will happen. Another tactic is to sue you without giving proper notice.
Debt buyers may claim you were properly notified when you were not and without notice, you can’t show up to court to defend yourself. If you don’t show, they get a default judgment for whatever amount they listed which may be unreasonably higher than the original debt. With the judgment in hand, they can pursue a lien against your home or vehicle. When a court approves a judgment by a creditor, that info goes on your credit report and can damage your score.
How to Protect Yourself from Debt Buyers
The fail-safe to protect yourself from an unscrupulous debt buyer is to pay your bills on time always and never fall delinquent. For many North Carolina consumers, though, financial problems make this tactic impossible. If you do fall behind on bills, never ignore collection letters. Be sure to open them all and read in case a lawsuit is threatened. If you are sued, show up to court even if you can’t afford to pay and are scared by the idea.
Bring proof of your income and bills and the judge may decide you’re not in a collectible position and toss the lawsuit. If you don’t show, the outcome will be bad. Worst case is the judge rules against you but, if you’re there, at least you can challenge the amount of the debt if the creditor is trying to overstep and charge you much more than you owe. If creditors are harassing you at work, you can tell them you’re not allowed to receive personal calls and, by law, they must stop.
The Ultimate Shield from Debt Collectors
If you’re drowning in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and uncertain what to do, bankruptcy may be the best fit for you. First, when you file bankruptcy, there is an automatic stay (i.e. stop) to all debt collection activity for 90 days. That can offer immediate peace of mind. Second, if you choose Chapter 7 bankruptcy, you can have medical bills, credit card debt, personal loans, and some income taxes completely discharged within just a few months.
Chapter 7 is sweeping, life-changing, and very fast. If you choose Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you’ll get on a three to five-year repayment plan that allows time to catch up on past-due balances on your home or vehicle loan and usually less on unsecured debt like credit card and medical bills than you would otherwise pay. To qualify for Chapter 7, you must show your debt outweighs your ability to pay on your current income. For Chapter 13, you must bring in a regular wage to qualify.
To find out more about the benefits of bankruptcy and how to shield yourself from aggressive debt collectors, contact the Law Offices of John T. Orcutt. Call +1-919-646-2654 now for a free consultation at one of our convenient locations in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville, Wilson, Greensboro, Garner or Wilmington.