Philadelphia Residents: Know Your Rights When Debt Collectors Call
Debt collectors are trained to make your calls with them as stressful and as frustrating as possible. They’re trained to get you into a state of fear, to make you ashamed, and to hit every emotional button they can hit to make you pay up, even if you take actions that are highly detrimental to yourself and your family to do so.
Knowing your rights can change how the entire interaction goes. Exercise them properly and you may keep the phone from ringing altogether.
Respond to the Initial Letter
You will get an initial letter informing you of an attempt to collect a debt. It should say who the original creditor was, what the debt collection agency thinks you owe, and that you have the right to dispute the debt within the next 30 days.
Disputing the debt is usually a waste of time. They’ll usually just send you a letter saying, “Yep, we checked, you owe the debt.”
However, you should respond. Send a certified letter that says “Pursuant to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act I want to inform you that I don’t want phone calls, emails, or texts. You may contact me about this debt via US mail only.”
If they contact you over the phone, by email, or by text anyway they will be breaking the law. You will have grounds to sue them and to recover damages. This can keep the phone silent.
Decide What to Do
At this point it’s important to take a hard look at your financial situation.
How big is this collection item? In Pennsylvania you have a lot of protections against wage garnishment and lawsuits, but that doesn’t mean you want to invite one. There can still be consequences, like liens or bank levies.
Is this one small bill that you forgot about? Are you facing a temporary situation, like a job loss with a new job upcoming? Or are you falling farther and farther behind?
By the time bills start getting collection there are few advantages to paying them unless you can pay them fast and be done with them, and do so without reaching into your retirement accounts or other accounts which may be protected.
If you can’t, it’s better to start thinking about whether bankruptcy is the better option. Don’t sit in “the sweatbox” longer than you have to.
You can contact our office for a free consultation. We’ll take a in-depth look at your financial situation and answer any questions you might have. We’ll help you decide, with solid legal advice, whether bankruptcy is right for you.