How to stop harrassing calls from creditors

Many people are contacting WalletPop.com regarding harassing calls from creditors trying to collect debt payments. Can these calls be stopped and what happens if you do successfully stop the calls? There is a law that protects you from harassment called the "Fair Debt Collection Practices Act."

Let's take a look at your protections and what steps you can take to stop the harassment.

All personal, family and household debts are covered by this act. These debts can include money owed for the purchase of a car, for medical care and any charge accounts. When a creditor wants to collect a debt from you they have the right to contact you in person, by mail, by telephone, by telegram, or by fax, but they can only make these contacts between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. A debt collector may not contact you at work if you tell the collector that your employer disapproves of such contacts. Once the debt collector has talked with you once during the day they cannot contact you any more that day or it's considered harassment. They must actually talk with you. If you let the phone ring and don't take the call they can continue to call the number.

You can stop the calls by contacting the collector in writing and telling the collector to stop. Once the collector receives your letter, he or she may not contact you again except to say there will be no further contact or to notify you that he or she plans to take some specific action, such as file a lawsuit. Collectors can't make threats unless they plan to carry them out. If a collector does take you to court and win, the collector may be able to garnish your wages or seize assets, so be sure you want to risk that lawsuit by telling them to stop.Even if you do succeed in stopping the calls, the debt does not go away if you do actually owe that debt. You have two options to stop the calls and make the debt go away - work with a not-for-profit credit counseling service or file for bankruptcy.

If you don't owe the debt, write a letter to the creditor, or the collection agency making the calls, and state that you do not owe the money. Before you can be contacted again the debt collector must send you proof of the debt, such as a copy of the original bill for the amount owed. If you have paid that bill, send proof of payment in writing to stop further calls. Keep that proof of payment in a safe place. Proof that you paid the debt is your best defense if a collector takes you to court.

If you believe you are being harassed by a debt collector, you have the right to sue that collector in court within one year from the date of harassment. If you are receiving harassing calls write down the date and details of your conversation each time you talk with a creditor so you'll have proof the contacts. If you win your suit you can get damages of up to $1,000 plus court courts and attorney's fees.

Debt collectors cannot use threats of violence or harm, publish list of consumers who refuse to pay their debt (except to a credit bureau), use profane or obscene language, make false or misleading statements, imply that you have committed a crime or that you could go to jail, misrepresent your debt, or threaten any kind of legal action unless they plan to carry through on that threat.

If you think you are being harassed, report all complaints about harassment to your state's Attorney General and to the Federal Trade Commission. While they won't help you to file a suit, they will put the information into their data bases and take action when they see a pattern of harassment by a collector.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Credit Score."

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