How to Stop Collection Calls and Creditor Harassment
You’re drowning in debt and now you’re on the receiving end of a nasty, never-ending string of phone calls and threatening letters from your creditors or collection agencies. It can be a stressful situation when you can’t keep up with payments and you default on your account. Collection agencies are notorious for harassing consumers into paying up — frequent calls at work and at home about your outstanding debts can only make the situation worse.
But you can regain control of the situation with a few steps, from educating yourself about your rights to taking the initiative to facing your debts head-on.
Here are 4 helpful steps to stop collection calls and creditor harassment:
Identify Your Debts
For starters, you need to make sure the creditor or collection agency is contacting you for debts that actually belong to you. If you have a common name, they may be calling you about someone else’s account. In other cases, they could be calling you about debts you’ve already cleared.
Sometimes credit card companies and banks sell off old debts they were unsuccessful in collecting to a debt collection agency. The files are lumped together and shipped over to the third party company to recover the money. The information could be outdated, or nearing prescription, which is when creditors lose their right to enforce payment.
Either way, your job is to figure out why you’re getting these intimidating calls and letters in the mail. Ask the debt collector who the debt belongs to, which creditor it’s tied to, how much the debt is, and when the account went into default (Important Note: if this is an old debt you’re dealing with, it may be nearing prescription. In South Africa there is a maximum length of time a creditor is allowed to try to collect payment for a debt. After this time passes, the creditor is legally no longer allowed to pursue you for payment of the debt. Make sure you always refer to the debt as the “alleged debt.” Otherwise, your acknowledgement of the debt could reset the clock on the time the creditor has to collect on the debt).
Take stock of all of your credit cards, lines of credit, and loans to learn which ones you are behind on. Look over your credit report closely to see which accounts have been handed over to a collection agency or have become delinquent. If the account isn’t yours or you’ve paid it off already, let the collection agency and the credit reporting agencies know so that they can remove any inaccurate information from your profile. You shouldn’t receive phone calls after that (if you do, you can report the collector to the consumer protection authority in your province).
But if the outstanding debts belong to you, you’ll need to take care of it.
Know Your Rights
Pushy, aggressive debt collectors can be intimidating, but your best defense is knowledge — get familiar with your rights so you know when they’re crossing the line.
Debt collectors have some notoriety for daily phone calls, issuing threats, and even contacting you at work or at all hours of the day.
By law, collection agencies are allowed to contact you about any outstanding debts you owe.
They’re not allowed to use profanity, issue threats, or lose their temper when they call. They’re also not allowed to share details about your predicament with your loved ones or your employer.
Look into these laws: there are set times and protocol that debt collectors need to abide by. This includes how many times they can contact you within a day or a week, when they can phone you, and if they can contact your employer at all.
Take a careful look at any letters you receive — they may look like they’re official court documents or court orders to pay your debts. This is also illegal.
Creditors and collection agencies don’t have to tell you what your rights are in this sticky situation so it’s usually up to you to sort out fact from fiction. However, you can always feel free to meet with one of our Debt Counsellors. They can help you look over anything you’ve received and give you some helpful guidance as to your next best steps or options. Our help is always free (there are no upfront or joining fees), confidential, and non-judgmental.
If the nasty phone calls are unreasonable, take steps to stop them in their tracks.
In South Africa we have a consumer protection act and the Council for Debt Collectors — check to make sure the collection agency that’s contacting you is registered. If it isn’t, they don’t have any rights to collect debts from you.
If they’re legitimate and they’ve broken laws, report them. It’s up to them to revoke a collector’s license depending on what’s happened and if they’re a repeat offender.
Figure Out Your Next Steps for Debt Repayment
Now that you’ve stopped the pesky phone calls.
Seek Professional Debt Counselling – We Can Help
If you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, seek the professional help of one of our registered Debt Counsellors. Contact us by email , Tell 0878221086 . Our appointments are free and confidential and don’t obligate you to anything. Your Counsellor will review your whole financial situation with you, help you build a realistic budget, and provide you with information and guidance about your options to deal with any debts and bills.