There are legal debt collection methods, but when it rises to the level of harassment, it is very likely illegal. Believe us when we tell you, a legitimate creditor does not need to resort to petty harassment in order to collect on a debt. They can sue you directly, and once they’ve obtained a judgment against you, they place liens on your property, garnish your wages, or levy your bank account. They must go through a judge to do so, but this is a far more effective method of collecting a debt than harassment.
Those that do use such tactics are generally those who have purchased debt on which the statute of limitations has lapsed. In other words, the creditor can no longer sue you or get a judgment against you in order to recover that debt.
In this article, we’ll take a look at how you should handle a debt collector, what a legitimate debt collection process looks like, and your rights as a consumer. To learn more about how to stop creditor harassment, contact Steadman Law Firm, P.A. today.
What Is the Debt Collections Process?
A legitimate collections process generally involves your credit report. The creditor will place the claim on your report and then attempt to inform you of the amount of money you owe. You can respond by either paying the debt, ignoring the attempt to collect, or challenging the fact that you owe the debt.
Most folks probably ignore the attempt to collect until it goes away. In some cases, it will. In fact, the statute of limitations on debt in North Carolina is three years. That means a creditor has three years in which they can file a lawsuit against you to collect a debt. After that three years has lapsed, they can no longer sue you. However, if they get you to pay even a small amount of the debt, then the three year time period begins again regardless of whether or not the original three years has lapsed.
Companies will often sell off their debt to collections agencies that attempt to harass consumers into paying debt that has lapsed. Technically, they can’t do anything to you if you just ignore them. But if they get you to pay even one cent, then the debt is considered active and they can sue you. This is known as “zombie debt”.
Know Your Rights as a Consumer
The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act protects consumers from abusive, manipulative, or otherwise illegal collection practices. Many, however, are not aware that the practices being used against them are illegal. Many are not aware that they can direct debt collectors not to call them anymore. You should send them a cease and desist certified letter. They are obligated by law not to contact you again. In addition, debt collectors must not:
- Attempt to lie to you or make threats that they cannot make good on;
- Call you repeatedly or between the hours of 9 pm and 8 am;
- Call you at work without your permission;
- Inform family, friends, coworkers, or your employer that you have a debt;
- Publish your name in a public forum;
- Threaten arrest, loss of public benefits, or loss of custody;
- Threaten repossession when it is not authorized by law; and
- Contact you if you are represented by an attorney.
Debt collectors may not threaten any action that they cannot, by law, take. They can’t even threaten to sue you if the debt is beyond the three-year statute of limitations.
If the debt has lapsed, you need only send a certified cease and desist letter to the company that is attempting to collect. And if they continue to harass you, you can sue them.
If the debt has not lapsed and the company is serious about collecting the debt, then they have more aggressive means at their disposal to collect the debt than nagging you via phone. At that point, you will likely want to work out a repayment plan or declare bankruptcy.
If you file for bankruptcy, all creditor actions against you must cease immediately. If they continue, that constitutes creditor harassment and is illegal.
We Can Help You Put a Stop to Creditor Harassment
Are you being harassed by creditors? Your first order of business should be to find out when you made the last payment on the debt. If that was three or more years ago, you have means at your disposal to both not pay the debt and get the creditors off your back. If the harassment continues, we can help you sue the collections agency and hold them accountable for their illegal activity.
Talk to a North Carolina Debtors’ Rights Attorney
Steadman Law Firm P.A. has helped numerous North Carolina residents claw their way out of debt, get creditors off their back, and regain a sense of control over their lives and their finances. If creditors are harassing you or engaging in behavior that you believe is illegal, contact our law office and let us know about your situation. We can help.