When Someone Else’s Debt Burden Becomes Your Problem

Dealing with your own debt is difficult enough as it is. Why should you be harassed about someone else's?

It's not an uncommon scenario, say Atlanta bankruptcy attorneys. Even I've experienced it. Whoever had our phone number before us - a woman named Brandi - must owe some money, because when we first moved into our house we got several calls a week from debt collection companies. Fortunately, the calls have almost entirely stopped since we said we did not know anything about Brandi or her debts. But many of us have heard horror stories about (or have first-hand experience with) bold bill collectors who didn't give up quite so easily.

The fact is, it's illegal for debt collection companies to harass you about debt. And it's illegal for them to provide information - or expect you to give out info - about a third-party's debt, whether it's your relative, friend, or just the person who once had your telephone number or rented your apartment.

Often times, being upfront and honest will solve the problem. But some rogue bill collectors don't give up so easily. If callers won't take no for an answer, you have the right to take action according to the Fair Collection Debt Practices Act.

Make sure to ask for a name, number, company and mailing address next time someone calls. Then write up a cease and desist letter stating that you don't want to be contacted about someone else's debt again. Sign your letter and send it to the company using certified mail with delivery confirmation, so you'll have proof that it's been received.

If that doesn't work, you've got a couple more options. You can opt to switch phone numbers - by explaining your situation to the phone company, they might even let you make the switch for free. Or you can go to the police. Harassment is illegal under any circumstances, and you shouldn't have to live with it.

That goes for when the debt belongs to you as well. Of course, circumstances are a little different when you're the one who owes money. Obviously the simplest solution is to pay your debt - but that isn't always possible, and creditors don't always listen when you tell them it's not possible. You still have the legal right to request that all correspondence occur through mail, and that bill collectors stop calling you, your workplace, and your relatives.

You're still on the hook for your debt, however - and ignoring the problem will only leave you with bigger debts, more credit damage, and potentially a lawsuit or wage garnishment. The sooner you tackle your debt problem, the sooner your finances can recover. If you can't do it alone, a Chapter 13 or Chapter 7 bankruptcy plan can help make it possible. Want to know if bankruptcy can eliminate or discharge your unmanageable debt burden? It's free to find out when you contact a professional Atlanta bankruptcy attorney for a complimentary one-on-one debt analysis.

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