Question: I have one old debt from 2014 and I have tried relentlessly to get them off my back. They even told me they would have my daughter taken away from me. I have not seen any paper form of what the debt is. It is from the most aggressive debt collector in the country. What do I do?
I am a single low income mom who is in college full time right now. I want these people off my back and for them to stop harassing me. I don’t answer their calls. I don’t have funds since I have three other debts to pay off. I get state aide as it is while I am in college. I would like my daughter to have a brighter future.
The first thing you should know is that your child is not going anywhere and you never have to put up with harassment. Hang up the phone, or just mute it and walk away.
Financial problems can happen to anyone, at any time. According to a survey from Bankrate.com, just 37% of Americans have enough savings to pay for a $500 or $1,000 emergency. You are not alone in facing debt. Debt can be overcome and your financial situation will get better. In the meantime, you don’t have to wait to deal with a threatening, aggressive debt collector.
Accounts in collections can be a burden, especially for households with limited income. But don’t let the debt collectors stress you out.
You have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The FDCPA is a federal law that governs what debt collectors can do when collecting debt from consumers. Most states have laws governing debt collectors too, many of which are similar to the FDCPA. It’s good to know you’re covered by both federal and state laws.
Keep in mind that asserting your rights does not take the debt away but it will give you relief from harassing debt collectors that use threats to collect debt.
Start exercising your rights according the FDCPA today.
Debt collectors cannot lie about anything
Threatening to take your child away is not only reprehensible but more importantly, illegal and a violation of the FDCPA. Don’t worry, your daughter is not going anywhere.
Debt collectors cannot lie when attempting to collect a debt. Making a false statement such as having your child taken away is a false statement. Unpaid debt is not a crime. Here are other common false statements debt collectors are prohibited from claiming:
- falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives
- falsely claim that you have committed a crime
- falsely represent that they operate or work for a credit reporting company
misrepresent the amount you owe
- indicate that papers they send you are legal forms if they aren’t or
- indicate that papers they send to you aren’t legal forms if they are
Harassing actions are off limits for debt collectors
Repeated calls from a debt collector can be considered harassing behavior. As well has cursing, threats of violation or harm and threatening arrest. Specifically, a debt collector cannot:
- use or threaten to use violence
- harm or threaten to harm you, another person, or your or another person’s reputation or property;
use obscene, profane, or abusive language
- publish your name as a person who doesn’t pay bills (child support collection agencies are exempt from this in some states)
- list your debt for sale to the public
call you repeatedly, or
- place telephone calls to you without identifying the caller as a bill collector
Debt collectors can’t make up consequences for not paying your debt
Debt collectors are strictly prohibited from saying that you will be arrested as a consequence of not paying your debt. Debt collectors have zero authority to make arrests or seek other criminal punishments for failure to pay debts.
Here are more actions off limits for debt collectors:
- Stating they will seize, garnish, attach, or sell your property or wages unless they are permitted by law to take the action and intend to do so, or
- legal action will be taken against you, if doing so would be illegal or if they don’t intend to take the action.
- threaten to take action that isn’t intended or can’t be taken—for example, if a letter from a collection agency states that it is a “final notice,” it cannot write you again demanding payment
- falsely claim you’ve committed a crime
Stop debt collector threats and calls
You have the right to stop the debt collector from calling you but you must notify the debt collector in writing to exercise that right. It doesn’t wipe out your debt but you won’t have to deal with the harassing phone calls.
Here’s is how stop debt collector calls:
Send a Cease and Desist Letter. Make a copy of your letter. Send the original letter via “certified mail, return receipt.” It costs to send certified mail but it’s the only way to ensure the debt collector received the letter.
Sample letter: This is notification under FDCPA 805(c) that you are to cease all further communication with me regarding the debt (identify the debt).
Once the debt collector receives your letter, they are not supposed to contact you again except under these two conditions:
- to tell you they are ending communications, or
- to tell you they may (or will) sue you or use another legal remedy to collect the debt
Cons of sending a cease & desist notice
When a debt collector is prohibited from contacting you, it does not eliminate the debt. You may increase the chance the debt collector will take legal steps to collect the debt, like filing a lawsuit if the debt is within the statute of limitations. Or, the debt collector may sell the debt to a different collector.
What you can do when a debt collector violates the law
You have recourse when a debt collector has violated the law. Contact an attorney to help pursue your rights the debt collector clearly violated. If you don’t have an attorney, you can research a consumer law attorney by state and specialty at the National Association of Consumer Advocates. You want to look for one who is experienced in debt collection laws (FDCPA).
There should be no out-of-pocket costs to you. The attorneys do all the work and the debt collector pays the attorney if you win.
Report the debt collector for violations
Make sure you report any action you think was in violation or inappropriate to your state Attorney General’s office, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. These agencies can be very helpful in resolving debt collection issues. Request the debt be removed from your credit reports as a resolution when possible. Knowing how to deal with debt collectors puts you in control.
Take action today and get some peace of mind.
The best of luck to you.