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Being in debt is stressful enough on its own. After all, it affects consumers’ ability to make large purchases, save money and meet financial goals. Debt can feel like a storm cloud hanging over your head.
But dealing with debt collectors elevates debt-related stress. Many people with debt feel a fresh twinge of anxiety every time the phone rings or the mail arrives. Why? Because it could very well be an insistent debt collector demanding payment.
Dealing with stress and debt collectors effectively will help you focus on what’s really important: eliminating debt and establishing financial independence for the future.
Know Your Rights as a Consumer
Unfortunately, not every debt collector plays by the rules, so to speak. Something as simple as knowing your rights as a consumer—yes, you do have them—can save you a lot of strife as you navigate your debt repayment journey.
There’s good news, though. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) “protects consumers from abusive, harassing or unfair debt collection practices.” The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for enforcing these rules.
Here’s what debt collectors are not allowed to do, as per the FDCPA:
- Call consumers outside the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Contact you at work after you inform collectors that your employer doesn’t allow such calls.
- Tell third parties you owe money.
- Harass or abuse you—or anyone else they contact regarding your debt.
- Misrepresent the amount of money you owe.
- Use deception to collect the debt. Including impersonating law enforcement, threatening arrest or property seizure (if not permitted by law to do so), falsifying your credit information or using a fake company name.
It’s important to note that the FDCPA includes collection agencies, debt buyers and lawyers who collect debts. As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau notes, the FDCPA “does not generally cover collection by the original creditor to whom you first became indebted.”
Telling a debt collector in writing to stop contacting you means they can only reach out to confirm there will be no further contact or to notify you they are taking legally allowed actions like lawsuits. Doing so can reduce your stress level while you strategize on repayment strategy. However, consumers should note they are not “off the hook” just because contact ceases.
Address Debt at the Source
The only surefire way to eliminate debt-related stress once and for all is to repay it in full so debt collectors have no reason to contact you. How you go about this process depends on the nature and amount of your debts.
For example, consumers with substantial credit card debt may attempt to negotiate their balances down by working with a debt settlement company like Freedom Debt Relief. Programs of this type could significantly reduce what is owed and help debtors get out of financial straits more quickly.
People carrying this degree of debt are likely already experiencing frequent credit collection calls and notices, not to mention damage to their credit score, so debt settlement may be a smarter way out. As with any debt relief service, it’s vital that you explore online reviews to see how the experience has aided other people in similar situations. So be sure to view reviews online.
Consumers with more manageable debt levels may choose to pursue repayment on their own, perhaps by utilizing the popular “avalanche method.” This approach to debt repayment involves making minimum regular payments on all debts but going above and beyond on the debt with the highest interest level. Once it’s paid off in full, consumers start on the next account with the highest interest. This minimizes how much interest you’ll pay in addition to your principal balance.
Ultimately, dealing with stress and debt collectors is about knowing your options and selecting the best solution to help you get out of debt.
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.