Establishing Boundaries: 4 Ways to Protect Yourself from Debt Collectors – Collaboration
Debt collectors can seem relentless, and many are willing to push the limits when seeking to make debtors pay up. That can leave someone who is already facing financial difficulties feeling like there is no way to stay safe from such aggressive, determined professionals. In fact, there are four simple tips that will allow anyone to make the threat represented by debt collectors a lot less of an issue.
Contact a Lawyer
When operating within the bounds of the law, as they are supposed to, debt collectors have a fair number of tools at their disposal. Routine experience with the associated requirements and processes gives collectors an advantage over the debtors they deal with.
The single best way to even the odds will always be to get in touch with an attorney. A simple consultation with a lawyer like Benjamin Trotter, Attorney at Law, P.C. can pave the way for a productive, protective relationship.
Some debtors avoid taking this step because of a fear it will prove too involved, disruptive, or expensive. In practice, having access to legal counsel and representation can easily be one of a debtor’s most valuable assets.
Know Your Rights
Debt collectors will rarely volunteer the information, but debtors are protected by a fairly comprehensive and generous set of laws. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) details tactics that are allowable for debt collectors along with many more that are prohibited.
Debtors who are familiar with even the general outlines of this important legislation will be able to assert their rights, where appropriate. Some lines debt collectors are not allowed to cross, according to the FDCPA, include resorting to:
- Threats of violence. As might be expected, it is illegal for debt collectors to threaten physical harm to those they contact. The FDCPA bolsters existing criminal prohibitions by making debt collectors liable for civil damages if they threaten debtors.
- Harassment. A debt collector’s contacts with a debtor can be persistent and regular, but they cannot cross the line into outright harassment. Although there is some gray area here, simply informing a debt collector you are feeling harassed can help.
- Vulgarity. Although many seem less than professional, debt collectors are not allowed to use vulgarity when communicating with debtors. Even a single violation can expose a collector to a statutory fine.
Communicate in Writing
It will always be best to have an attorney communicate with a debt collector when possible. Otherwise, debtors generally do well to keep spoken interactions to a minimum and rely on written, mailed letters instead.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau makes sample letters available that debtors can use to streamline their communications. Sticking to writing instead of phone calls will make a potentially costly mistake less likely.
Many debt collectors are skilled at verbally persuading debtors to admit responsibility or to commit to repayment plans. Such conversations are always recorded and will often be used as evidence if legal proceedings follow.
Always Keep Your Own Best Interests in Mind
Even people who are eager to repay their delinquent debts will always do well to act strategically and cautiously. Debt collection is an inherently adversarial activity, and professionals who specialize in it learn to be ruthless.
Before agreeing to anything, it will always be best to think about the matter carefully. Failing to do so can leave a debtor facing an unnecessarily difficult recovery from debt.
The Value of Staying Calm and Focused
Dealing with debt collectors rarely feels pleasant, but it does not have to be as fraught with risk as it sometimes ends up being. Debtors who make the effort to inform themselves and stay calm and centered at all times tend to resolve their collection-related troubles most successfully.