Are debt collectors making your life miserable?

When the phone rings, do you dread who may be on the other end? Are you tired of dodging debt collectors at home -- and even more embarrassing -- on the job?

If so, you may take some small measure of comfort in realizing that you are not alone. Millions of American consumers struggle with unpaid debts from student loans, medical bills and out-of-control credit card spending.

Ignoring the problem only worsens your situation. It's better to face the consequences. Sometimes the original creditor will agree to work with you and allow you to make installment payments instead of turning the debt over to a collection agency. This can be preferable for both parties, so it never hurts to inquire.

If that ship has already sailed and you feel that you are being harassed by debt collectors, you need to know your rights. Go online to the Federal Trade Commission's website and review their publications on consumer's rights as protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Very early morning or late-night telephone calls, threats, profanity and other harassment tactics are violations that can be reported to federal agencies like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Arizona Attorney General's office also investigates allegations of harassment by debt collection agents.

If you receive a certified letter or subpoena regarding a lawsuit or court proceeding, take the appropriate action. This usually means that a judgment or lien is about to be placed against you or your property due to unpaid debt(s). You could even wind up with a wage garnishment, and your credit will take a heavy hit.

In the above situations, it's usually a good idea to seek out legal guidance from a bankruptcy law attorney. He or she can review any letters or court orders and evaluate your situation from a legal standpoint. The best resolution may be to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief.

Doing so can give you a chance to restructure your finances to realistically reflect your earnings and expenses once you emerge with a clean slate.

Source: creditcards.com, "10 tips for dealing with debt collectors, collection," Fred O. Williams, accessed May 18, 2017

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  • NACA | National Association of Consumer Advocates
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