As a consumer, it is easy to fall behind on debt. While this is rarely an ideal scenario, there is nothing ethically wrong with failing to pay debts or needing to pay them off slowly. When lenders loan money, they understand that they are making a business deal with an individual and account for the risk involved by requiring that the borrower return the money with interest.
Some debt collectors make the case that those who borrow money and cannot repay it at the speed that the lender prefers are terrible people... Of course, this is a slight exaggeration, but only slight. If you've ever been on the receiving end of a credit card collections call, you may have had a similar experience.
Many consumers do not realize that the powers of a debt collector are limited, and if a collector violates the boundaries of their authority, they may suffer legal consequences. As a consumer, you may have more tools than you realize to protect your rights and dignity while you work towards paying of your debt.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, collectors face a number of restrictions. However, in practice, many collectors knowingly violate these restrictions until a particular consumer stands up to them and enforces his or her rights. For many collectors, this is not a fluke, it is practically policy.
These protections for consumers place constraints on collections efforts, meaning collectors may not:
- Contact you late at night or early in the morning
- Contact you at your place of work, if you inform the collector you cannot take collections calls at work
- Contact your family about the debt
- Contact other people about your debt
- Contact you after you tell them to stop doing so in writing
- Contact you if you have an attorney representing you in the matter
While some of these protections require you to inform the collector of this right, once you do so, the collector faces stiff legal penalties for violating those boundaries.
Protect your rights from unfair collections
If you face debt, you may need to pay it off at your own pace, or it may be time to consider a bankruptcy. Among the other benefits it offers, bankruptcy stops collections efforts immediately. If you suspect that bankruptcy may be a good fit for your financial hardship, carefully examine the process before beginning, to keep your rights secure and make the most of the opportunities you have in front of you.