An editorial from Echo Press: How to deal with debt collectors – Alexandria Echo Press

Are you afraid to pick up the phone, thinking it might be an aggressive debt collector?
You’re not alone. Many people in Douglas County are in this kind of financial hardship, along with millions more statewide and nationally. The reasons people go into serious debt are many: unexpected medical bills, job loss, home or vehicle repairs, divorce and, especially lately, inflationary increases.
Yes, you owe money, but you also have the right as a consumer to be treated with respect and dignity.
A national non-profit credit counseling agency, Take Charge America, issued a press release that explains consumer rights and offers tips for dealing with harassment from debt collectors.
“No one should be afraid of picking up their phone or being bullied or threatened. But relief is much closer than many people think,” said Amy Maliga, financial educator at Take Charge America. “When you understand how debt collection works, you can leverage that knowledge to regain peace of mind while striving to be debt free.”
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects individuals from harassment by debt collectors and dictates how debt collection agencies can interact with people. To help individuals regain control of debt collection calls, Maliga shares five key actions to take:

  • Check their facts. Ask for written verification of the amount of the debt and additional details, including the name of the original creditor and instructions on how to dispute the debt if you doubt its validity. By law, collection agencies must provide this information within five days of your request. Never provide sensitive financial details over the phone.
  • Keep detailed records. Keep track of every letter, email, and phone call you have with debt collectors. These will come in handy if you need to file a complaint or prove that you paid the debt if another agency tries to collect it in the future.
  • Take control of communication. You have the right to dictate how debt collectors can communicate with you. You can request it by email or post. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers sample letters to help communicate with debt collectors in writing.
  • File a complaint. If a collection agency remains aggressive or flagrantly violates the FDCPA, you can file a complaint online with the CFPB or by phone at 855-411-2372. You will receive email updates and can check the status of your complaint on the CFPB website.
  • Learn about credit counseling. If you’re overwhelmed with collection calls, you can find relief with a nonprofit credit counselor. After completing a free online or telephone credit counseling session, you will receive an action plan with personalized solutions, possibly including a debt management plan. To learn more about Take Charge America, visit

    takechargeamerica.org

    or call (888) 822-9193.

Sometimes this mounting debt can seem overwhelming, but step by step you can reduce your debt and get out of financial trouble, even if it requires bankruptcy options.
Remember, you have the right to reduce your debt and regain your financial independence without having to deal with endless calls and harassment from overly aggressive debt collectors.

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