When you find yourself swamped with bills you can’t pay, even if it’s not your fault, you are probably feeling embarrassed, depressed and hopeless — but you’re not helpless. Even if you’re being harassed by a debt collector or faced with legal action, there are things you can do to help get back on track.
1. KNOW THE FACTS ABOUT YOUR CREDIT.
You’re entitled to see the three credit reports from Equifax, Trans Union and Experian for free once a year. This will give you a picture of how your debt is impacting your credit. It will also let you make sure no one is fraudulently using your credit identity and see who actually owns your debt.
Get reports at www.annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228 or write to:
Annual Credit Request Service
P. O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Avoid other advertisements for free credit reports, because most of these require you to buy credit monitoring or some other type of service.
2. KNOW THE STATUTE OF LIMITATION ON DEBT COLLECTION.
In Ohio, you are not totally protected from creditors just because a debt is old. However, Ohio’s statute of limitations puts a maximum on the amount of time a creditor has to file a lawsuit against you in the court system. The statute of limitations begins from the date that you stopped paying for a debt, so you should try to locate papers that indicate the date of your last known payment. Ohio statutes are:
- Written accounts, 8 years (O.R.C. §2305.07).
- Oral contracts and verbal agreements 6 years (O.R.C. §2305.07).
- Demand notes — 6 years after the date on which the demand is made or 10 years if no demand is made and neither principal nor interest has been paid over that time period (O.R.C. §1303.16(B)).
- Dishonored checks or drafts — 3 years after the dishonor (O.R.C. §1303.16 (C)).
If a debt collector contacts you regarding an old debt, do not admit that you owe the debt, do not pay the debt and do not agree to send them money. This may restart the limitations period and give them the legal right to sue you. Instead, consult an attorney, who can properly instruct the collector that the debt has expired. The Ohio debt-relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer offer free consultations at their conveniently located offices.
3. DON’T DODGE COLLECTORS
A debt collector may be a collection agency, a lawyer who collects debts as part of their business, or a company that buys delinquent debts and then tries to collect them. Don’t ignore the calls — answer the phone and deal with the collector calmly. The longer you put off resolving the issue, the worse the situation and the consequences — the next step is collection letters that may include notice of legal action. If you have received collection letters, read them and consult an attorney.
4. KEEP A CALL LOG.
Record the dates and times of calls, the names of debt collectors, their phone number, and highlights of your conversation. If the debt collector uses threatening behavior, take note of that.
In Ohio, you are allowed to record your phone calls without disclosing that you are recording them.
5. REQUEST THE DEMAND IN WRITING.
Just because someone is demanding money, it doesn’t mean you actually do owe it. If you have been contacted by a collector, tell them you want to verify the debt in writing. Get a free copy of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which says collectors have five days to send you a written “validation notice,” stating the amount of money you owe, the name of the creditor, and what action to take if you believe you do not owe the money.
6. DON’T AGREE TO A PAYMENT PLAN WITHOUT REVIEW.
It’s critical to review evidence of the debt to make sure the details are correct. Get written verification of the debt; then get independent financial advice before agreeing to a plan. A financial professional can help get you the best repayment options and make sure that you aren’t accidentally reactivating old debt that should be dismissed. Guidance is available from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or from a qualified attorney.
7. DOCUMENT AND REPORT HARASSMENT.
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from engaging in abusive behavior. This covers debt collectors who work for collection agencies, but not debt collectors who are employed by the original creditor.
By law, debt collectors are prohibited from lying, from threatening you with arrest, and from harassing, oppressing or abusing you or any third parties they contact. They cannot falsely claim that they are attorneys or government representatives, use obscene or profane language, use threats of violence or harm, or misrepresent the amount you owe. They cannot contact you at work if they’re told not to or call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. (in your time zone) unless you agree to it.
If a bill collector goes too far, you can take action.
- Tell them to stop. Send a letter stating that you want the collection agency to cease all communications with you.
- Document illegal behavior – use your call log and write down all violations.
- File a complaint — report the collector to the Federal Trade Commission, at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
8. SUE THE DEBT COLLECTOR.
If you’ve been subject to repeated abusive behavior and can document it, consider suing the collection agency.
9. CONTACT US.
Take the first step toward debt relief and contact the experienced and compassionate attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer today for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION. We will evaluate your entire financial situation by looking at your income, your debts and your goals, and we will discuss the best fit for your financial situation. We will handle every phase of the process, including getting creditors to stop attempting to collect on unpaid bills.
Delaying can only worsen your situation, so call the Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer today at one of our conveniently located office branches at 614-228-4435 (Columbus), 937-222-7472 (Dayton), or 877-654-5297 (Cincinnati), or email for your free consultation so we can determine what debt relief solutions will work best for you.