How Do I Stop Creditors From Calling Me?
Under U.S. bankruptcy law, petitioning for a Chapter 7, Chapter 11 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy means that creditors must immediately stop all of their collection efforts. However, it might seem as though a few of your creditors didn’t get the notice. The collection letters are still being stuffed in your mailbox, and you’ve been subjected to more than one harassing phone call from a determined collector.
Being Harassed by Creditors?
There are two main ways that a creditor has to collect a debt. They either have their collection efforts managed by collections agency or an attorney. Collections agencies usually either purchase the debt or the debt is referred to them on a commission basis. While some collections agencies may have attorneys, most of them have only one tool available to them. That is harassing you over the phone until the debt is paid. Attorneys can do much more including filing a lawsuit against you, obtaining a judgment, and then garnishing your wages.
Creditor Misconduct During Collections Efforts
If the creditor is legitimate, they will place the account on your credit report and then attempt to contact you to remove it. In some cases, the debt is uncollectible or, in other words, it has passed the statute of limitations. Companies buy this uncollectible debt en masse for pennies on the dollar and then harass people into paying on debts that are no longer collectible.
While they can still take your money (and will), they cannot sue you, obtain a judgment, or take any other aggressive collections action against you. For all intents and purposes, the debt is uncollectible. In Texas, the statute of limitations is four years. After seven years, that debt is no longer reportable. In other words, even if the debt appears on your credit report, once seven years have elapsed, it no longer will and once four years have elapsed, the creditor has lost their chance to sue you.
What Creditors Are Not Allowed to Do
Additionally, there are certain actions that are prohibited by both the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). While they can phone you day in and day out, there are limits on how often they can call and during what times. They cannot call you after 9pm or before 8am. Additionally, it is unlawful for creditors to:
- Deceive or threaten to sue you or make any threats that they actually can’t follow through on;
- Repeatedly call you or call you non-stop (they can only call you so many times in a day);
- Call you at work if you have specifically requested not to be called there;
- Call your family, friends, or employer to make your debt known (they can call them to attempt to locate you but they cannot mention the debt);
- Publish your name in relation to your debt;
- Threaten to arrest you or impact your child custody;
- Threaten to terminate your social security, public assistance, or any other government benefits; or
- Insult you or use obscene language.
In addition, if you have an attorney representing you, they must contact you through your bankruptcy attorney. They may not contact you directly. If they do, you can refer them to your attorney.
Send a Cease-and-Desist Through Certified Mail
If you are being harassed by creditors over the phone, you can send them a certified cease-and-desist letter demanding that they cut contact. If they continue to call, you can have an attorney file a suit against them and recover damages. In the case where the debt is no longer collectible, that is exactly what you should do. There is no reason for you to deal with annoying debt collectors after the statute of limitations has lapsed.
Creditors can take a number of legitimate collections actions against you. These include levying your bank account, putting liens on your real estate and garnishing your wages. There is no reason why they should also be able to harass you. If you have been harassed by debt collectors, you can recover damages related to their malfeasance. In cases where you don’t suffer any economic damages, the collections agency may still be liable for both your attorney costs and a punitive fine of $1000. You do, however, want to be sure that the debt is outside the four-year statute of limitations. Otherwise, the collections agency could turn around and sue you to recover the debt.
If legitimate creditors are taking legitimate debt collection actions against you, you can file for bankruptcy if there’s no way that you can pay off the debts.
Creditor Harassment After You Filed Bankruptcy
As if it wasn’t bad enough that creditors harass you when you owe them money, now they’re harassing you in the midst of a bankruptcy filing. While these actions are definitely illegal, there are a few creditors that slip through the cracks and may not have received notice of your filing, but once they have been notified they should cease contact. What’s important to remember is that should a creditor choose to violate the law you do not have to put up with this illegal and disturbing behavior.
What to Do If Creditors Are Continuing to Harass You After You File Bankruptcy
- Make note of the harassment. As soon as you petition the bankruptcy courts, it’s time to start making note of the creditors who are still in contact with you. Most will back off after letting them know that you’ve filed for bankruptcy; however, one or two may still persist. If this is the case, start taking note of the harassment. If they send letters, collect all of the correspondence. And if they call you, write down the time and date that they contacted you. Keeping a paper trail of the harassment is crucial in the fight against these creditors.
- Contact your Dallas bankruptcy attorney. Once you have collected correspondence and have written down the phone calls, it’s time to contact your bankruptcy attorney for assistance. Bring all of your evidence to your bankruptcy lawyer’s office. Let them know that some creditors are still in contact with you. Your attorney will immediately notify the bankruptcy courts, and they will move to start legal proceedings against your creditors.
- Take them to court. If they still persist, it’s time to fight back against your creditors and take them to court. You can sue them for harassment and emotional distress, and most courts will generally side in your favor, as long as you can provide proof.