Those who are struggling with debt often have to deal with constant phone calls and letters from creditors demanding payment. More collectors seem to be using harassing or even abusive techniques in their efforts to get money. The Federal Trade Commission received a record number of complaints against debt collectors in 2011, logging almost 181,000 consumer complaints. Many Oregon residents are turning to bankruptcy to help end creditor harassment, but federal law protects consumers who do not file bankruptcy from abusive collection practices as well.
One of the biggest benefits that filing bankruptcy offers debtors is the automatic stay on collection actions that the court issues once a person files a petition. Once the stay is in place, creditors may not make any further efforts to collect on the debts that the filer owes – including phone calls demanding payment. The intent behind the stay is to give the debtor relief from incessant pressure from creditors demanding payment so the debtor can have the time to think clearly and work out a repayment plan with creditors.
The stay does not apply to debts a person may not discharge in bankruptcy, however, such as child support debts or some tax debt. A person may still receive communications from creditors regarding such debts after filing a bankruptcy petition.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The law offers consumers protections against creditor harassment even if they choose not to file bankruptcy. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act only applies to professional debt collectors, not to the original creditors. Under the FDCPA, collectors may not:
- Call repeatedly or before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Call a debtor at work if the debtor informs the collector that he or she may not receive such phone calls at work
- Discuss the debt with third parties without the debtor’s permission
- Call without identifying themselves as collectors
- Use threatening, abusive or obscene language when speaking with debtors
- Threaten to arrest or jail the debtor for non-payment
- Demand post-dated checks and threaten suit if the checks bounce
- Send letters designed to look like official court documents
- Communicate further with the debtor after the debtor tells the collector in writing to cease contact
Talk to a Lawyer
While the FDCPA can help protect consumers from creditor harassment, it does not eliminate debts. If you are struggling to make ends meet, consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney who can discuss your debt relief options with you.