How Can Massachusetts Consumers Avoid Harassment from Creditors
Many of our bankruptcy clients come to us after the credit card companies file a lawsuit, or start to call them daily. Or, their car is repossessed for failure to make payment and all of a sudden they have a huge deficit bill on their hands.
Have they waited too long? Perhaps. But it’s never too late to start dealing with your credit problems.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The FDCPA is federal law administered by the Federal Trade Commission with a goal of helping consumers who are debtors. The Act covers personal, family and household debt. (It does not cover business debt.) Since creditors — the banks, the mortgage companies, the car companies, and the credit unions – usually have an advantage over single creditors, the law was enacted to protect consumers. The goal is prohibit debt collectors from “abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices.”
What Kinds of Contact Can Credit Collectors Make?
The law says that before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. you cannot be contacted, absent agreement otherwise. You cannot be contacted at work IF you inform the creditor that you are not allowed to be contacted there. If you have an attorney and s/he has informed the creditor, the creditor may not contact you other than through your attorney. The creditor may not discuss your case with others; however, they may contact others for the purpose of finding out how to contact you. Following contact, the creditor must provide a “validation of debts” within five (5) days; the notice must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and the next steps if there is an error.
The Act forbids debt collectors from using any type of threat, publishing your name, making false statements, threatening arrest, make inaccurate statements about your credit and any “unfair practice” outlined by the Act.
Creditors can sue you in the local Massachusetts District Court. You have numerous rights to respond to that lawsuit.
How can you Stop Creditor Harassment?
You can simply inform the creditor that you do not wish to be contacted; this is best undertaken with a letter via certified mail, or through an attorney. Thus, they are not permitted to continue contact unless they are simply confirming your request or informing you of their next action, such as a lawsuit.
You can also contact the Massachusetts Attorney General, the FTC and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau if you feel that your rights have been violated.
Filing for bankruptcy also stops creditor harassment immediately. Once filed, creditors can only contact you through official filings with the Bankruptcy Court. Filing for personal bankruptcy stops all lawsuits and requires the creditor to file a proof of claim if they want to proceed. They can file suit in the Bankruptcy Court, however, if you file a no asset Chapter 7 bankruptcy, this should stop creditor harassment forever. Bankruptcy also stops wage garnishment, foreclosures, repossessions, etc. However, if the creditor has a security interest in the property, such as a house or a car, the Automatic Stay will only slow things down.
Bankruptcy Attorney Neil Burns
If you are being harassed by a creditor, or if you need to file for bankruptcy protection because your bills are simply too high and you need a “fresh start”, contact an attorney with 30 years of experience, Neil Burns. He offers a free initial consultation. Call today.