Are you avoiding phone calls due to debt collection efforts? Debt can become so overwhelming that you feel there is no point in answering the phone, just to tell the caller you cannot pay. The trouble with avoidance is the problem only gets worse. Garnished wages could be the end result, which creates a cash flow nightmare.
Here are some strategies that protect your rights and help put a plan in place, to eliminate or prevent debt collection calls.
1) Know your rights. Debt collectors are bound by rules established in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Understanding what the rules of the game are will protect you from aggressive practices and potentially paying debts you do not owe.
2) Verify the debt is actually yours and that it is still owed. Collection companies buy debt and often don’t know much about the accounts. It is not uncommon for them to receive faulty information leading to calls for debts that are not yours or have already been paid but not recorded properly. You will not know this unless you take the call and request the debt be verified. The collection agency will send information on the original creditor, the amount owed, last payment made and any other information they have.
a. If the debt is not yours, dispute it.
b. If the statute of limitations has passed, consider your options.
c. If the debt is yours, make payment arrangements if you are able.
3) Contact creditors early. When payments are late, or you foresee a financial setback, calling creditors early and explaining your situation will enable you to get help before collection agencies are brought in. Options may include lowering interest rates, payment forbearance, or debt modification.
4) Keep excellent records. Have a written record of every phone call (time, date and conversation details). Print every email and keep all written correspondence including proof of debt or lack thereof. You may need this information if you are taken to court or the debt is later reported incorrectly on credit reports. If you don’t pay this debt collector, they may sell it to another company making record keeping essential.
5) Send payments by money order. If you are able to make payments send a money order so you are not disclosing bank information. Many consumers also find it beneficial to keep exempt funds in a separate account. This might include social security pay, military benefits or other wages that cannot be garnished.
6) Record conversations if you believe your rights are being violated based on the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Keeping a written record of calls and times will also help build a case in the event you need to sue a company to stop harassment.
7) Send payments and correspondence through certified mail with return receipt. This provides proof of items mailed and received.
8) Get professional help. Dealing with debt collectors and even contacting banks can be overwhelming. If this feels like more than you can handle, get help. The professionals at Strategic Consulting can explain all of your options and help you make the best decision based on your individual situation. Understanding all or your options when it comes to debt relief programs is critical to making the best decision.
Debt collection is right up there with getting a root canal. No one ever wants to go through it. Sometimes, negative circumstances impact the lives of good people through no fault of their own. When this happens, you need to know that you have options available to you. Making a decision in a timely manner can limit the damage to your credit and ultimately the amount you may have to pay back in the future. The professionals at Strategic Consulting can show you how to protect yourself and get the help you need so you can start on the path to financial recovery.