Forget the Headless Horseman and the Grim Reaper - the scariest character for many Americans this Halloween is none other than the overly aggressive debt collector.
Bill collectors today are pulling out all the stops - calling us at work, calling us names and threatening to take our house, car and wages or even toss us in jail. Talk about being haunted. But thanks to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you don't have to put up with it - even if you can't afford to pay back debt. This kind of harassment is illegal, and you can put a stop to it, according to Atlanta bankruptcy attorneys.
First, if you know the debt isn't yours, don't ignore the calls - contact the collection agency immediately. There could have been an error, you might share a name or old phone number with the person who did incur the debt or - worst of all - someone may have stolen your identity. If you don't resolve the problem, bill collectors will keep calling and the creditor may even bring a lawsuit against you. But if you firmly tell the debt collection agency that the debt is not yours, they are obligated to research the situation.
Of course, most of us become victims to debt collectors because we actually are the victims of debt. But collection agencies are still required to follow the law - that means treating debtors fairly and not making false threats. For the record, they can't throw you in jail or take your paycheck (cue sigh of relief). You still have a say in how your debt is handled.
Again, ignoring the situation will get you nowhere. Instead, take control. Get the name, address and phone and fax number of the collection agent, find out how much you owe and to which creditor and come up with a game plan. For instance, you have the right to request that all correspondence be by mail - this way you can get everything in writing. You can also request that the bill collector stop calling you work, or trying to reach you through friends and family. As long as you continue to cooperate by staying in contact, you have a say in how you are treated. If a collector acts inappropriately, you can report him or her to the FTC or Better Business Bureau.
If you and the collector settle on a debt repayment plan you can afford, it's up to you to take responsibility and make payments. However, if you can't agree on a plan that works for you, you still have options. Bankruptcy is your legal right as a U.S. citizen, and often the most effective way to handle large debts. Find out if bankruptcy can put you - not your creditors - back in control of your finances. Let our Atlanta bankruptcy attorneys find your best bankruptcy solution when you try a free one-on-one debt analysis.