Regardless of how you found yourself here, you’ve got more bills than money and you’ve fallen behind on some payments. And as if that weren’t stressful enough, now debt collectors are calling, adding to the misery of it all.
Here’s how to handle it:
Understand your rights. And thanks to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act , you’ve got plenty of them. According to this law, a debt collector may not:
Contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., unless you agree to it
Contact you at work if you’ve told him or her you’re not allowed to get calls there
Make threats or use abusive language
Harass you by calling repeatedly
Make false statements
Document all contact with debt collectors. Make note of the time of each phone call, the name of the person you spoke to, and what was said. Keep a file of written collection notices that you receive.
Put an end to collection calls. If you’d like a debt collector to stop calling, mail a certified letter requesting as much; make sure to keep a copy of the letter and the mail receipt for your files. (This sample letter from Pine Tree Legal Assistance can help you get started.)
Under the law, a debt collector may not contact you again once you’ve taken such action. The only exceptions are calling to inform you that there will be no further contact and to notify you of their intention to take a specific action against you, such as filing a lawsuit to collect the debt.
Report abusive debt collectors. File complaints against debt collectors with the Federal Trade Commission and the office of theAttorney General in your state. For legal advice, reach out to Legal Aid or to a consumer attorney in your state.
Get help paying down debt. Reach out to a credit counselor for assistance in paying creditors, organizing your bills, and creating a financial plan for paying down debt and building up savings.
Finding yourself in the financial hot seat of not having enough money to pay your bills can be embarrassing and overwhelming. But knowing how to handle debt collectors, reaching out for help, and creating a plan of action can help you reduce stress and gain control over your finances again.
[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]