If you owe money, you know the stress of having the debt collectors call. They’re relentless; they’ll call your home, your employer and may even call your family.
Of course, you do owe money. But sometimes debt collectors’ phone calls border on harassment. In fact, sometimes debt collectors are absolutely guilty of harassment. Are you getting too many phone calls? Owe money, but are unsure what to do? Here’s how to handle the debt collectors, once and for all.
How to Pay Off Debt Collectors
Once you’ve established that you’re not being contacted by a scammer, you can safely begin to pay down your debt. Generally speaking, you’ll have a few options available to you. These options may vary depending on the nature of the debt.
If you’re paying off IRS debt, you can usually do so via bank account draft. Your representative will work with you to ensure that the payment schedule is manageable, and that your payments are automatically drafted at a predesignated day each month. In some cases, you may be eligible to settle your IRS debt for less than you owe. In those instances, full payment may be required.
If you’re dealing with a credit card, loan or other debtor, it’s critical that you ensure you’re paying one to the right person. You can set up debit card payments to be deducted automatically from your account. You can also set up a draft from your checking account.
That said, some people are nervous about giving away their bank account information. If that’s the case for you, consider opening a checking account with the sole purpose of paying down this debt. That way, should things go wrong, you’re not putting yourself at risk.
Overall, it’s important to remember that, while paying down your debt is important, you shouldn’t be required to do so at the expense of your financial security or your family’s. Legitimate debt collectors will work with you to find a repayment plan that’s favorable to all parties.
Debt Collector Harassment
Even legitimate debt collectors can cross the line. The following are signs of debt collector harassment. This harassment is absolutely illegal, and should be reported immediately.
- Threats of violence or harm to you of your family
- Obscene language, name calling and swearing
- Failure to provide information about who they are
- Phone calls which are repetitive, several times in one day, or one after the other
- Threats to publish your personal information
If you feel you’ve received harassing phone calls from a debt collector, call your state’s attorney general office or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at (855) 411-CFPB.
What to Do When Debt Collector Threatens to Serve Papers
As mentioned, there are certain things debt collectors can and can not do, by law. This includes threatening to have you arrested.
Threatening to serve papers on you is just one of the many forms of harassment debt collectors use to compel you to hand over money. In fact, they have no authority to do so. If a debt collector threatens to call law enforcement, to serve papers or to send you to jail, contact your state’s attorney general immediately.
Along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission also handles debt collectors who may have violated your rights. You can contact the FTC via their website if you need to report a crime.
How Long Can a Debt Collector Legally Pursue Old Debt
Each debt you owe carries a statute of limitations. This statute of limitations will vary by the type of debt and the state you live in. In most cases, it’s between 4 and 7 years from the date of your last payment.
When you work out payment arrangements with a debt collector, keep that in mind. Sometimes, making a payment will revive a debt, renewing it and beginning the statute of limitations all over again. It’s not unusual to be contacted about a (very) old debt. If this happens, don’t make a payment just yet. Instead, contact a lawyer who can help you determine the best course of action.
When you owe money, you may feel anxious every time the phone rings. Be cautious that you don’t give personal information to an unknown caller, so you don’t fall victim to a scam. And, most importantly, know your rights. If you feel threatened or harassed by a debt collector, contact the appropriate authorities.
A Word of Warning
The final thing you need to know about debt collectors is this: not all calls are legitimate. In some cases, scam artists will gain access to your information. They’ll know your phone number and where you work. You may even get a phone call where the so-called debt collector has your social security number.
Be very cautious of fake debt collectors just out to con you. These people who have somehow gotten your information will trick you into giving bank account information, or into paying money you don’t owe. There are a few ways you can recognize a scam. Be mindful of the following:
- Beware of debt collectors who would have you send money immediately. You always have a right to request a statement in writing. Never give your information out over the phone. In fact, tell the caller that you’ll be expecting a letter in the mail.
- Be cautious if you don’t recognize the name of the company. In some cases, a third party debt collector will be a name you’re not familiar with. But before you hand over any money, check with the Attorney General’s office to be sure this is a company licensed to do business in your state.
- If you don’t recognize the debt, don’t pay the bill. Check your credit report to verify such a debt exists before you attempt to settle.Don’t fall for threats made by the debt collector. If the caller begins to threaten jail time, or says they’ll have law enforcement contacted. Debt collectors who are legit are also professional.
We have discussed the many scams and cons that these fake collectors run elsewhere on DebtReviews. Pay a visit to our guide on Debt Collector Scams to learn about the many ways that they might try to con you and the things that you need to look out for.