Creditors tend to relentlessly come after debtors, even when they clearly cannot pay what is owed. The most aggressive and unethical creditors will attempt to shame or embarrass you for circumstances that are likely beyond your control, but you should never feel embarrassed about falling behind on bills. Remember that creditors will happily exploit these feelings or even break the law if it means collecting a debt.
Filing for bankruptcy can put a quick stop to creditor harassment, but you also have rights that protect you from unlawful debt collection practices. The amount you owe does not matter: Debt collectors must still treat you fairly.
If you are subject to disruptive phone calls, threatening language, or other invasive collection tactics, our Columbus creditor harassment lawyer wants to help. When you come to the Law Office of Matthew Doyaga, LLC, you will collaborate directly with our legal professional, who will walk you through your rights and help you take immediate steps to enforce them. We will also review how bankruptcy works and how the process can help you erase your debt. Your peace of mind is our top priority, which is why we will give your case the comprehensive and compassionate attention it deserves.
All debtors are protected under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Several states also offer additional protections through their own laws.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits creditors from:
- Lying to you. When calling, creditors must identify themselves as debt collectors without being asked. They are not allowed to misrepresent their identity, the amount that is due, whether they have a right to collect the debt, or whether the debt’s statute of limitations has expired.
- Using threatening or abusive language. Creditors cannot threaten you with violence or anything they do not have the legal right to do. For example, a debt collector cannot threaten to sue you if they do not legitimately own the debt (or if the debt’s statute of limitations has expired). Debt collectors also cannot swear at you, yell at you, or use profane language.
- Calling repeatedly or at inconvenient hours. As of 2021, a debt collector cannot call you more than once a day about a specific debt. If they do speak to you about a debt, they must wait at least a week before they can call you about that specific debt again. Unless you specifically give them permission to do so, a creditor cannot call you before 8 AM or after 9 PM. Creditors cannot continue to call you at work once you tell them to stop.
- Attempting to embarrass you. Debt collectors cannot publish (or threaten to publish) information about your debt. While creditors can call your family members or employer if they are attempting to locate you, they cannot generally give these parties any information about your debt.
- Communicating with you if you ask them to stop. Once this request is made to a creditor, they can only contact you to acknowledge their receipt of the request or to inform you they plan to take legal action (if they have the right to do so).
When a debt collector contacts you for the first time, they are legally required to send a “validation letter” within 5 days of the conversation. This letter should prove the creditor has a right to collect the debt and inform the recipient of their rights. Upon receiving a validation letter, you have up to 30 days to request additional information – and it is in your best interest to do so. You should always verify the creditor owns the debt.
Should a creditor violate your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or a similar state-level law, you have the right to file a complaint with the government. You can also file a private lawsuit against the debt collector. Winning a lawsuit against a creditor does not eliminate the underlying debt, but you can obtain monetary penalties and discourage any further misconduct. Our Columbus creditor harassment attorney can help you explore your options and take action against abusive debt collectors.
Though the law gives you several tools to stop unfair collection tactics, you will still have to address your debt to avoid collection lawsuits. Within a certain statute of limitations, a creditor has the right to sue a debtor to collect what is owed. A creditor can then obtain a judgment, which allows them to garnish the debtor’s wages or file liens on the debtor’s property. However, lawsuits are costly and time-consuming, so debt collectors typically avoid filing them until they see no other way to get what they are after.
Standing up for your rights as a debtor can sometimes compel a creditor to sue. Think of it this way: When you tell a creditor to stop calling you, they are legally obligated to obey. Their job is to collect the debt, and you just cut them off from getting it from you voluntarily. With no other options, the creditor may file a lawsuit sooner than they otherwise would have.
This does not mean you should not enforce your rights, but you will have to take additional action to manage your underlying debt. Filing for bankruptcy stops collection actions and can help you eliminate some types of debt. Chapter 7 bankruptcy may be a great choice if you have little to no current income, while Chapter 13 bankruptcy may be better if you have reliable income and secured property you would like to keep.
When you file for either type of bankruptcy, you receive powerful protection through the automatic stay. This court order prohibits creditors from suing you until your case is over. It also freezes existing lawsuits and prevents creditors with judgments from garnishing your wages or bank accounts.
You will likely be able to erase credit card debt, medical debt, and other types of unsecured debt upon completing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy. You will receive a Notice of Discharge that informs creditors they no longer have a right to collect on these debts. This means they cannot contact you about them, attempt to collect on them, or sue you for not paying them: The debts are permanently eliminated.
At the Law Office of Matthew Doyaga, LLC, we are ready to help you use bankruptcy to stop creditor harassment once and for all. Our Columbus creditor harassment lawyer can determine whether filing is right for you and guide you through each stage of the process. We will also handle creditor communications on your behalf and ensure you are no longer subject to endless, invasive phone calls. We care about your well-being and will work to get you the peace of mind you deserve.