If you owe money to a creditor and you fall behind on your payments, you will almost certainly start receiving telephone calls from bill collectors. At first the caller will be polite but as time passes the callers will become more demanding and rude. Of course, if you are behind on your payments to one creditor, there is a good chance that you will be behind to several others. The end result: you may be receiving 20, 30, 50 or more collection calls per day.
Is there a non-bankruptcy Option to Stop the Phone Calls?
There are several federal and state laws that govern the conduct of bill collectors. The most well known of these laws is something called the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) which governs the conduct of bill collectors. The FDCPA does not address the conduct of the actual creditor. In other words, if an in-house collector for ABC Credit Card Company is calling and cursing you out, the FDCPA will not apply.
There are state and federal laws that could apply to outrageous conduct by in-house collectors but the conduct must be truly extreme – such as threats on your life or threats of incarceration of you do not pay. If you are receiving this type of call from an in-house collector and you can record the call, you may have a cause of action.
Third party bill collectors (collection agencies) are governed by the FDCPA. The FDCPA limits the hours of calls and restricts “excessive” numbers of calls. Here, too, proof can be an issue but FDCPA complaints are on the rise and we have seen a number of significant recoveries.
You have the legal right to stop calls from third party collection agencies by sending the collector a letter advising them that you are asserting your right under the FDCPA to discontinue communication. See our FDCPA Claims site for more information about the FDCPA and wrongful actions by debt collectors.
Understand that stopping the phone calls will not make the debt go away. In fact, if you do assert your “stop the calls” rights under the FDCPA, the collector will likely refer the case to a lawyer for suit, which will put you at risk for a judgment and, ultimately, wage and bank account garnishment.
Negotiate With Creditors to Pay Your Debts
If your delinquency was caused by a temporary factor and you are now back on your feet, or if you have family help to borrow funds to pay off or pay down your debt, you can certainly negotiate a “workout” with your creditors. Consumer advocates like Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard encourage non-bankruptcy workouts that can certainly include limitations on collection calls as part of the deal. You may also want to contact Credibility (formerly Consumer Credit Counseling Services) for assistance.
Ginsberg Law Offices does not recommend that you contact any of the fee based “debt settlement” companies that you hear advertised on the radio or TV. While some of these organizations may be legitimate, many are not and we regularly read about lawsuits filed by state attorneys general about deceptive trade practices. In case you were wondering, there are no “secrets that the credit card companies don’t want you to know,” or “secret bailout programs” available to consumers.
Ultimately money lenders want to get paid and if you can convince them that they will get paid, they will settle.
Bankruptcy Will Stop the Phone Calls
If you find that you are not able to reach a repayment agreement with your creditors, or if your debt is simply too overwhelming, bankruptcy may be an option to stop the phone calls and address the underlying problem. Ginsberg Law Offices is a bankruptcy law firm (out technical designation is a debt relief agency) and we represent people in bankruptcy cases filed in the Northern District of Georgia.
Our practice is always to explore both bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy options. Filing bankruptcy will cost you money for legal representation and the act of filing will cause damage to your credit, so you should not take this step lightly.
If you do file bankruptcy, the automatic stay goes into place immediately and creates a legal bar to all collection phone calls. Creditors who do not honor the stay will face significant sanctions from your bankruptcy judge and we rarely encounter bill collectors or creditors who want to explain to your judge why they did not stop the harassing calls.
If you’d like more information about both bankruptcy and non-bankruptcy options, please call our office at 770-393-4985 or contact us by filling out our contact form.