Many debtors regularly experience harassment from collection agencies. Collectors' outrageous conduct can impose a great deal of stress on an individual or a family who is struggling financially. However, you may be able to assert your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and parallel state laws. If a creditor violates one of these rules, there are actions you can take to protect yourself from collections abuse. A knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney can help you reorganize your finances near Los Angeles or the surrounding communities. Consult Devin Sawdayi if you are hoping to pursue relief from harassment by creditors or collections agencies.What Counts as Collections Abuse?
Some common tactics used to collect relatively minor debts are threatening phone calls and multiple letters from a debt collector. Sometimes collection agencies will call family members or your workplace. In general, they can call a relative in order to try to locate you. However, the agency can't talk about your debt with a family member. A collector also may not call you at work once you have told them you cannot take calls there. You should document any calls received after you have given them this information.
Other actions that count as collections abuse may include:
- Misrepresenting the amount you owe;
- Using abusive language and profanity;
- Bothering relatives or employers once you are located;
- Falsely claiming to be a government representative;
- Threatening consequences for failure to pay, like jail time, lawsuits, or ruining your credit report;
- Making anonymous or automated phone calls;
- Misrepresenting the status of the debt; or
- Giving false reports to credit agencies.
Similarly, deceit, harassment, and unfair practices are prohibited. Unfair practices include such conduct as trying to collect a fee or interest on top of the amount you owe, unless the contract creating the debt or a law permits this charge.
There are ways to stop collections abuse. You can tell the agency in writing to stop contacting you. You should send the original letter by certified mail and ask for a return receipt. If you tell a collector to stop communicating with you, it cannot do so except to tell you of a specific action it is taking, such as filing a lawsuit or to say that it will stop contacting you. However, you should be aware that the creditor or agency can still sue you to collect the debt. If you are served with a complaint initiating an action to collect the debt, you should immediately contact an attorney for representation. Failure to answer a complaint can result in a default judgment, which in turn can lead to your wages being garnished or a lien being placed on your property.
For some debtors, a useful solution when dealing with multiple creditors, substantial debt, and pervasive collections harassment is to file for bankruptcy. An automatic stay goes into effect almost immediately after you file under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13. It is illegal for a creditor to continue to try to contact you once it is notified that you are seeking bankruptcy. The court will contact the creditors you list in your petition paperwork, but you can also let them know directly that you have filed for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 in order to stop the harassment.Explore Your Bankruptcy Options with a Los Angeles Attorney
Filing for bankruptcy is a detail-oriented and complex process, particularly for those who have not done it before. It is important to retain a diligent Los Angeles attorney to help you seek this type of relief. Bankruptcy lawyer Devin Sawdayi can also give you guidance regarding collections abuse. Call us at 310-475-9399 or complete our online form to set up a consultation.