Can Debt Collectors Trash Talk Me?
When you go through hard times financially, it’s easy to fall behind on your bills. But falling behind and being unable to pay a debt doesn’t mean that collection agencies can treat you any way they like.
Too often, debt collectors overstep their legal rights and responsibilities when collecting debts from consumers. So before a debt collector sues you, it’s a good idea to seek legal advice from debt defense attorneys. At Northwest Debt Defense, our Tacoma debt defense attorney, Washington debt lawyers help clients threatened with a debt lawsuit to realize that they can take the upper hand when dealing with debt collectors. We also help clients in Seattle and Vancouver while our Oregon debt defense attorneys assist clients in Portland, Salem, and Medford.
This article describes some of the abuses that take place and answers the question, “What can debt collectors do to you? We will also give you a heads up on what debt collectors are not legally allowed to do and how best you can respond to them.
What is a Debt Collector?
A debt collector is a firm or organization that recovers money owed on past due bills. Many debt collectors work for corporations that have receivables against debtors and they either charge a fee for the service or get a portion of the total debts collected. Some debt collectors are debt purchasers that acquire debt for a portion of its face value and then collect the whole amount.
A collection agency is considered a debt collector.
Debt Collectors Explained
Unable to pay back debts or failure to make loan payments on time will have their delinquency reported to the credit bureaus. Their debt will be handed over to a collection agency or debt collector following a default, affecting their credit history.
Credit card debt, phone bills, vehicle loan payments, utility bills, and back taxes are all examples of unpaid invoices that a debt collector may be assigned to collect.
Businesses find it cheaper to hire a debt collector than to pursue consumers directly. The collector has the resources to locate a debtor who has moved or changed phone numbers.
What can debt collectors do to you?
- Collect an old debt
Unsecured debts, such as credit card debts and medical costs, have a time restriction. You can’t be sued after a certain date since the debt has “expired”. But you still owe it, and debt collecting agencies may pursue it.
- Push you
Debt collectors can’t threaten or deceive you, but they may exert pressure. This pressure may include daily calls, frequent letters, or threats of suing for payment – as long as they keep within the law.
- Demand payment for a debt
As a final resort, debt collectors might sue you for payment. Because most debtors fail to appear in court and thereby lose by default, these cases typically end in wage garnishment or bank levies.
- Sell your debts
A collector may resell uncollected debt or sell the remaining balance if only partial payment is made. You can expect further collection calls when one collection agency ceases to contact you. If you pay off a debt in full, get it in writing to verify it.
- Negotiate your debts
Debt collectors have high-profit margins since they acquire debts for cents on the dollar. This offers them greater bargaining power with consumers. You may be able to negotiate a 25% or 30% reduction in your initial debt. Again, obtain the arrangement in writing, so you have confirmed the loan was paid in full.
What can’t debt collectors do?
- Threaten arrest
Collection agencies cannot falsely accuse you of a crime or threaten you with arrest if you do not pay.
The authorities can’t arrest you or throw you in prison, for starters. Also, not paying a credit card, mortgage, vehicle loan, or medical payment on time does not put you in jail.
Nonetheless, if you fail to appear in court for a justifiable reason relating to a debt, the judge may issue an arrest warrant. You might even go to prison for not paying a court fine, taxes, or child support.
- Shame you publicly
Debt collectors cannot publicly embarrass you into paying money you may or may not owe them.
They can’t even reach you via postcard. They can’t name debtors. They also cannot discuss your debt with your spouse or attorney.
Debt collectors may call third parties to attempt to locate you, but they can only ask for your address, home phone number, and job. They may only contact such people once.
- Collect debts you don’t owe
Some debt collectors will use inaccurate information to collect money from you.
Your initial creditor may have sold your debt to a collection agency, which in turn may have sold it to another collection agency or collection agency. A mistake somewhere along the line might mean the collector contacting you has the wrong facts.
- Solicit Information
The collection agency may attempt to collect a debt that has been discharged in bankruptcy or owed by someone with a similar name.
If you don’t pay within five days of being contacted, the debt collector must issue you a formal notice outlining your obligations. You may need to prompt them.
If you are unsure if you owe a debt, submit a certified letter with a return receipt to the collector. Avoid taking any responsibility for the loan.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau publishes sample letters to debt collectors to help you avoid saying the wrong thing or revealing too much information.
- Harass you
The law prohibits debt collectors from harassing you in certain circumstances. They may not:
- Threaten you with violence
- Use vulgar or indecent language.
- Call you often
- Call you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
- Call you at work until you say no in writing.
- Contact you unless you notify the collector in writing to cease or contact only your attorney.
- Even if you follow these measures, debt collectors may still contact you: They might get in touch with you to inform you that they will stop calling you or inform you that a lawsuit has been filed against you.
Learn More: When Will a Debt Collector Sue You?
Dealing with a Debt Collector
Be sincere and helpful.
If a debt collector reaches you, you must:
- Be open about your finances, especially debts.
- Answer calls and emails promptly.
- Accept a payment plan if you can.
- Notify the debt collector of any changes.
- Notify the debt collector of every interaction.
Document the following:
- Date and time of the call
- Identity of the debt collector and the firm for which they work
- The way they reached out to you (in person, by phone, letter, email or text)
- Other matters discussed during the call and who said what
If you know, you owe money but can’t pay it.
- Determine your budget.
Calculate your income and spending to see what’s leftover.
- Offer a payment plan to the debt collector.
Contact the collector and explain your financial situation or consider your request. They may ask for proof of income. Offer just an amount you can pay.
The debt collector may:
- Allow you to repay lesser sums over time.
- Close the debt if you pay a portion in one go.
Wage-earners with no big assets should cancel their debts. If you and the debt collector have come to an arrangement, ask them to document the agreed terms. If they refuse, put it in writing. If they don’t agree, file a complaint.
- Stick to the payment plan
If you can’t pay, call the debt collector right away. Explain your situation and propose a fresh plan.
With Northwest Debt Defense Law Firm on your side, you can sleep easy while we handle the debt collectors.
The greatest approach to prevent being victimized by debt collectors is to understand your rights and know your options. Contact one of our reliable attorneys at Northwest Debt Defense Law Firm.
Now that you know what debt collectors can do to you, is time to take action and get help for a fresh financial start. There is no cause for you to endure the annoying stress of being chased by a debt collector for money that you don’t have and cannot pay. Call our law office today for a free debt analysis.
Northwest Debt Defense Law Firm
650 NE Holladay St, Suite 1640
Portland, OR 97232, United States
NW Debt Defense Law Firm is a Debt Relief Agency. Where appropriate we file petitions for relief under the Bankruptcy Code solely for consumers in the District of Oregon. We represent both Oregon and Washington consumers in collections law suits in Oregon and Washington state courts.