You might be feeling somewhat powerless if you’re in a situation where debt collectors have become a part of your life. However, the reality is you have quite a few rights, many of which debt collectors hope you are unaware of. After all, their goal is to compel you to pay in any way they can.
Keep in mind though; the operative phrase in that last sentence was “any way they can.” There’s a whole lot they can’t do. To that end, here are some things debt collectors don’t want you to know.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
This Congressional Act establishes the boundaries within which the collections industry must operate. What’s more, debt collectors can be sued in court and you’ll be awarded damages if they’re found to be out of compliance with any of its tenets.
Actions from which they’re barred include:
- Calling you before 7:00 AM and after 10:00 PM
- Calling you repeatedly
- Discussing your debt with other people without your permission
- Using obscenity, racial slurs or insults when talking with you
- Contacting you at your place of business after being told not to do so
- Making false or misleading representations
- Sending letters appearing to have come from a court
- Threatening to turn your debt over to an attorney, damage your credit report or repossess some of your assets unless they truly intend to do so
- Using false claims to collect information about you
These prohibitions take tried-and-true harassment techniques off the table.
Debts Don’t Have to Be Paid in Full to Be Resolved
Collectors can accept partial repayment and settle your debts. Naturally, they’re not going to tell you this, but it is entirely possible. You can also work out payment plans. These negotiations can be conducted on your own, or you can work with a company like Freedom Debt Relief to arbitrate settlements on your behalf.
They Have a Limited Amount of Time to Collect
While the time period varies from state to state, statutes of limitation apply to uncollected debt. The average time period ranges from three to six years from the time the last payment was made. Once that interval has elapsed, collectors must stop trying to contact you about it. Now, with that said, you do still owe the money and it will show up on your credit report as an unresolved debt — if it’s reported. Further, the clock starts running again if they can get you to admit owing the money or send them a “good faith payment.”
They Can’t Just Take Your Assets
If you’re talking about unsecured consumer debt, the best they can do is try to compel you to pay and log a negative on your credit report if you don’t. On the other hand, the collateral for a secured debt — such as a car loan or real estate — can be repossessed. However, that typically happens long before the matter is turned over to a collection agency. Similarly, unpaid federal student loans can trigger wage garnishment by the government. Other than that, though, collectors have to take you to court and win before your assets can be brought into play.
They Cannot Have You Arrested
In a consumer-driven society like ours, arresting people for bad debt could overwhelm the jails quite quickly if the economy goes bad. Seriously though, debt collectors do not have the authority to have you arrested for unresolved consumer debt. Yes, they can sue you to come to court, but that’s about as far as it goes. Now, with that said, you could find a sheriff’s deputy standing at your door if we’re talking about unpaid child support. However, even then you’ll have gone to court and been ordered by a judge to pay before incarceration could result.
There’s no need to feel you’ve surrendered your rights to decent treatment just because you can’t afford to pay a debt on time. Knowing these things debt collectors don’t want you to know evens the playing field to a degree. Yes, you do still owe the money — if you do. But at least they can’t treat you harshly because of it.