You would be aware that debt refers to any obligation or money owed by one party, the debtor, to another party, the creditor. Common examples of debt include credit card balances, loans, mortgages, and outstanding bills.
Debt collectors are the people or agencies creditors employ to recover unpaid debts. Generally, these collectors are third-party entities specialized in debt collection. Their primary responsibility is to contact debtors and attempt to collect the outstanding amount owed. They can reach a debtor through phone calls, letters, or even email, seeking payment or negotiating repayment plans.
Debt collectors will contact a debtor with unpaid bills, overdue accounts, defaulted loans, or outstanding judgments. It is important to address debts responsibly and communicate with them as required. But what happens if you choose to ignore debt collectors?
There can be many ugly scenarios. It can lead to continuous contact attempts with debtors, potential legal action, negative impacts on your credit score, and possible harassment. For example, you fell behind on the payment of a credit card issued by Comenity Bank.
This bank offers credit card financing, including for big retail stores. Due to a liability pile-up, you may receive harassing calls from Comenity Bank. Ignoring them is not the right thing to do. Read on to understand what can be the consequences if you disregard debt collectors:
Continuous Contact Attempts
Debt collectors may continue to call, send letters, or attempt to contact the debtor through other means to collect the money. Ignoring them does not make them disappear, and they may persist in their collection efforts.
Lower Credit Score
A credit score measures an individual’s creditworthiness. It indicates their likelihood of repaying debts and managing credit responsibly. A higher credit score means a lower credit risk. Lending agencies, such as banks and credit card companies, use credit scores to assess the risk of lending money to someone.
Unresolved debts can negatively impact your credit score. If it is reported to credit bureaus as delinquent, it can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. That affects your ability to obtain credit or loans in the future. If your credit score is lower, you may face difficulty getting credit and have limited credit options.
Creditors can pursue legal action against you if you are a defaulter. Depending on your state’s laws, they can sue you for a judgment leading to severe consequences. Debtors may face wage garnishment. This means an individual’s salary is withheld by their employer and paid directly to the creditor.
So, it is advised to address debts responsibly. In case you believe that it is not valid or there is an error, you have the right to dispute it. Are you aware that debtors have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and can request verification of the debt and fight it if necessary?
Some acts by debt collectors that violate FDCPA include:
Debt collectors cannot call more than 5 times a day.
Calls cannot be made before 8 am and after 9 pm.
Use of any abusive or obscene language is prohibited
Any kind of violent or legal threat is prohibited.
False or misrepresenting claims cannot be made.
Some actions that you can take include:
Request To Stop Calling
Debtors have the right to request not to receive any calls from creditors. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), if a debtor sends a written request for the creditor to stop contacting them, then the creditor has to oblige.
Once the request is received, the debt collector can contact the debtor in specific situations only, for example, to inform them about pursuing legal action. However, stopping communication with debt collectors is not the correct measure as it does not eliminate the debt obligation. Creditors may still pursue other legal avenues.
Request Written Verification Or Validation
If you have doubts about your debt’s validity, you can exercise your right to request written validation before making any payments or taking further action. This right protects consumers from potentially incorrect or false debt claims. It also ensures they know the details of the debt they are being asked to pay.
This means you can ask the creditor to provide documentation to prove the debt is legitimate. They have to prove their authority also as debt collectors.
Dispute The Credit
You can write to the credit reporting agency if you think something is wrong with your credit report. For example, there may be incorrect account numbers, or some payment was wrongly reported late. In such a scenario, you can dispute that information.
The credit bureau will investigate your dispute once you submit a formal written request. You can attach some supporting documents or evidence to help prove the error. If the bureau finds information inaccurate, they will correct it or remove it from your credit report.
Seeking Legal Advice
On how to address your problem, seeking legal assistance or talking with a credit counseling firm can be helpful. You can look at your possibilities for repayment or negotiating.
An attorney can explain your rights under the FDCPA and other relevant consumer protection laws. This empowers you to know what creditors can and cannot do. Also, an attorney can negotiate with the creditors on your behalf to reach a fair settlement, set up a repayment plan, or explore other options to pay it off.
Debt collectors may be just doing their job, but handling and addressing your debts is your responsibility. There can be severe consequences if you ignore the debt collectors. They will keep calling you persistently, and your debt will not disappear.
It can also impact your credit score and lead them to start legal action against you. So, it’s always better to take action and address the debt situation. Exercise your rights and take legal advice if required.