Too often, good and hardworking people find themselves buried in large amounts of debt. Some may even find that their creditors have enlisted the aid of debt collection agencies to help get immediate payment. If you or someone you know has had to deal with debt collectors in the past, then you know they are extremely persistent and are likely to say anything that will force you to pay. What they don’t want you to know, however, is that much of what they tell you is either a complete lie or a major exaggeration of a related truth. Their whole purpose is to get money from you. While it is illegal for them to threaten you, they will suggest many negative consequences in order to scare you into paying them.
Another thing you should know about debt collectors is that many of them are paid based on commission. That means they don’t get paid until they make you pay, which would explain many of their questionable and pushy tactics. You’ll have an easier time handling debt collectors if you are familiar with their strategies as well as what your rights are. Here you will find some of the common tactics and lies frequently used by debt collectors.
Multiple Calls Day After Day
Remembering that a debt collector’s income is influenced by the debts they collect, it’s no surprise that many collectors will call you incessantly every day. In their minds, you’ll be so overwhelmed and frustrated by their excessive calls that you’ll do anything to get them to stop, even if it means you paying what they want. When this tactic is used, they are trying to wear you down mentally.
Remember, you do not have to talk to them; you don’t even need to answer the phone. In fact, you can write a letter to the debt collector to stop calling you. Keep a copy of the letter for your own records. Once the letter is received, the debt collector can no longer call you except to notify there will be no further contact or that the creditor may take other courses of action to collect the debt.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when you officially file for bankruptcy, your debt collectors are required by law to desist from pursuing you.
Wage Garnishment Threats
If you do talk to a debt collector, they may push you into thinking that if you do not pay your debt immediately then your wages will be garnished. This is a classic example of a debt collector exaggerating the truth. In order for your creditor to garnish your wages, they must take legal action against you, which is a lengthy process. A debt collector has no legal authority to automatically garnish your wages without a court order from a judge that can only come as a result of you being sued. If your creditor has not taken legal action against you, then they have no right to garnish your wages.
Even if they sue you and are granted a wage garnishment order from a judge, there is a limit as to how much they can take from your wages. According to Debt.org, “the maximum amount that can be taken from a paycheck is the lesser of 25 percent of your disposable earnings or the amount by which your wages exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage.” It is also possible for you to exempt yourself from wage garnishment if you can prove to the judge that doing so will cause you or your family financial hardship.
There Are No Deadlines
Debt collectors may try to convince you that you have a specific timeframe available to pay your debts. They may suggest that additional fees or ramifications are likely if you do not pay by a certain date. This is simply not true. If the collector tries to tell you otherwise, it is simply an attempt to coerce you into paying them as soon as possible.
Collecting On Old Debts
Some debt collectors may contact you for payment on very old, or stale, debts. What they don’t want you to know is that every state has a statute of limitations that make certain old debts uncollectible. For most states, this statute runs 4 to 6 years from the date of your last payment. However, in many circumstances the debt can become eligible for collection should a payment be made, even after the debt has become a stale debt. Collectors may try to convince you that you must pay on a stale debt that is no longer collectible. Bottom line: whenever a debt collector contacts you, you will want to verify the debt, that the collector is not a scammer, that the debt is not a stale debt, and other details. Do not admit to the debt without first verifying its authenticity.
LIE: “Paying off your debt will improve your credit score,” or “Not paying immediately will further damage your credit score.“
The truth is that once your debt has received a negative status, such as “late payment,” “past due,” “in collections,” etc., then your credit score has already taken a hit. If a collector is telling you that your credit score will dip even lower, they are lying. If they tell you that paying the debt will immediately improve your credit score, this is also a lie. A negative report on a debt will stay on your credit report for seven years. While you can slowly rebuild your credit in other ways, immediate payment once in collections will not automatically improve your credit.
LIE: “I don’t have to prove that you have debt. You already know you do.”
Even if you are out of debt, that doesn’t mean you can’t be harassed by collectors. There are many scams out there with collectors trying to get any personal information from you any way they can. If you do receive contact from a debt collector, regardless of whether you owe the debt or not, you should verify the debt.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you have the right to request a “debt validation” letter from the collector. This letter should explain the original debt agreement, payment history, and more information verifying the debt and its collection. If you suspect you are receiving calls from a fake collector, read this article from the Federal Trade Commission.
LIE: “We will share your debt information with your family, friends, and employer.“
Again, you have certain rights as a consumer under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. One of these rights is the protection from having your personal financial information shared publicly. This is an intimidation strategy in hopes that you will pay the debt to stop them from sharing your information with someone like your employer.
You Have Rights
As we’ve previously discussed, there are rights protected by law available to any consumer when it comes to debt collection. These rights include protecting you from harassment and intimidation. If you are experiencing abusive practices from debt collectors, do not hesitate to report your complaints to the FTC.
What Should You Do?
If a legitimate debt collector contacts you, you cannot simply ignore it and hope they will go away. Sure, you do not have to talk to them, but complete avoidance will not put them off. First, you’ll want to verify that the debt and the collector are legitimate. You’ll also want to consult with a lawyer who specializes in debt collection cases, like a bankruptcy attorney. If you live in the Chattanooga, Tennessee, or surrounding areas you’ll want to contact April Randle Law. April Randle has extensive experience working with debt collection cases and bankruptcy filings. Your first consultation is free and you can discuss your current financial situation and what your options are moving forward.
Remember, debt collectors are trying to pressure you into paying them as soon as possible. In most cases, they would have to pursue a lengthy legal process to make good on the threats they make. If you want to stop collectors from harassing you, filing for bankruptcy forces them to stop contacting you; it may offer you the financial freedom you’ve been searching for.