New Yorkers struggling with debt can find the entire ordeal to be overwhelming and stressful. But sometimes creditors go to far. There are practices that cross the line from fair practice to harassment, and we have debt collectors use abusive collection tactics on our clients.
We also know that clients are often unaware these practices are unlawful, and don’t know their full rights as consumers. So we’re hoping to share some helpful information about what defines creditor harassment, and ways to stop it.
One powerful piece of information is the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This explains the definitions of creditor harassment, along with your rights. The Act applies to personal and household debts like medical bills, mortgages, and credit card debt. It also keeps debt collectors from engaging in what they call “abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices.”
The information we’re sharing falls under two categories, one of which is the types of contact creditors can make. Some provisions in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act cover the limits of when, where, and how often a creditor can contact someone.
- Unless the individual agrees to other terms, the creditor cannot contact that person before 8:00am or after 9:00pm.
- Collectors are not allowed to contact you at work if you specify you can’t receive calls there.
- If you have an attorney, the debt collector must contact the attorney. If you do not have an attorney retained, then the debt collector is allowed to contact other people, but only with the intention of finding out how to contact you.
- The collector is not allowed to discuss the debt with anyone other than you, your spouse, or the your attorney.
Debt collectors must also provide a written notice, or “validation of debts,” within five days of contacting you. This notice needs to include the amount of debt owed, the name of the creditor to whom the money is owed, and next steps if you believe there is an error with the information. You are entitled to know exactly what you owe and whom you owe it to. You also need a proper channel of communication if you want to dispute the debt, or wish to find out the name of the original creditor if the debt was purchased from another party.
The other category of information we’re sharing is ways to stop creditor harassment in New York. You are allowed to tell a debt collector to stop contacting you unless they are confirming the request or notifying you of an alternate action, like a lawsuit. It’s beneficial to send a no-contact letter to the collector by certified mail (instead of just calling them), and keep a copy for personal records. This is a way of putting the debt collector on notice; further attempts to call to collect the debt will be seen as harassment.
Another way to end constant creditor calls is to file for bankruptcy, which invokes an automatic stay. If you are faced with insurmountable debt, you can speak with a bankruptcy attorney in New York and begin the bankruptcy process. Those who file for bankruptcy can benefit from the automatic stay, which halts any actions by creditors to contact them for payment. It also stops any current acts of foreclosure, repossession, wage garnishment, evictions, and other legal processes, and prevents them from commencing during your bankruptcy. These laws are in place to protect people in debt and help them resolve their financial issues with dignity.