The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects debtors from overreaching debt collection practices, such as abuse, deception and late-night phone calls. Still, many creditors and collectors blatantly violate its provisions and find loopholes and new ways to harass debtors.
Anyone harassed by collectors should know their rights and what they can do to stop harassment. The skilled and seasoned Ohio bankruptcy attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer understand that even the most well-intentioned people can find themselves overwhelmed with debt. We offer a free consultation to evaluate your financial situation and come up with a debt-relief plan that’s best for you.
Contact us online or call our office today to set up your free consultation.
Your Rights as a Debtor
According to the law, bill collectors must send you an initial letter within five days of contacting you to tell you the amount of the debt you owe, the name of the creditor to whom you owe the debt, your rights to dispute the debt and how to request verification of the debt. They must also identify themselves as bill collectors, provide their names, and not pretend to be someone else.
Collectors may not:
- Call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
- Threaten you or your family with jail, harm or use obscene words.
- Tell others about your debt or publish the names of those who owe debts.
- Falsely represent that you have committed a crime.
- Misrepresent the amount you owe.
- Call you at work – provided that you have notified them that your employer does not approve of bill collectors contacting you there.
Dealing With Harassing Creditors
Here are some suggestions to deal with harassing creditors.
- Don’t rush to pay or give payment information that can be used against you. Making even a small payment is considered an acknowledgment of the debt and can have repercussions such as resetting the clock on a debt that is past the statute of limitations.
- If you wish to dispute or request verification of the debt, send a letter requesting verification to the debt collector within 30 days of receiving the initial letter.
- You can specifically request not to be contacted at work, and if the debt collector knows that your employer disapproves, the collector may not contact you at work.
- If you inform debt collectors that you have an attorney, they can contact the attorney and no one else. Otherwise, unless you have given prior consent, they can only contact third parties to find out how to reach you.
- Stop Collectors from Contacting You – Send a certified letter asking not to be contacted anymore. If you have a problem with a debt collector, file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or (800) 282-0515 and with the Federal Trade Commission or (877) FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).
- If you believe a debt collector has violated the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act or Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, you may sue the collector in federal or state court within one year from the date the violation occurred.
What if I’m Being Sued?
Debt collectors can sue Ohio consumers over past-due civil debts, including unpaid loans, credit card balances, student loans, and overdue medical bills. If you get served with court papers for a lawsuit, read them carefully so you know what is involved and what your court dates and obligations are. In Ohio, you have 28 days after you have been served to answer or respond to the complaint. If you disagree with the amount of debt claimed, you should respond by filing an answer.
If you do receive a notice that a lawsuit is being filed, make sure that the debt is yours, that it has not expired, and that the debt collector is not suing in error.
If you are finding yourself overwhelmed with debt and dealing with creditors, you may wish to consider getting relief by filing for bankruptcy. There is an automatic stay that goes into effect once bankruptcy is filed that stops collection efforts by creditors. The two most common types of bankruptcy are Chapter 7 and Chapter 13.
Chapter 7 bankruptcy allows you to discharge many types of debt quickly, often in a matter of months. It stops, prevents or resolves collections, loan deficiencies, repossessions, wage garnishment and civil judgments.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy allows you to reorganize assets and consolidate your payments and repay some or all of your debt affordably over a three- to five-year period. If you complete your court-approved repayment plan, you will receive a discharge that eliminates most of your remaining debts.
Be aware that there are some debts that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. You must still repay these debts after a Chapter 7 discharge or pay them in a Chapter 13 plan. A consultation with a debt-relief attorney will help you decide which option is best for you.
Contact Us For Help and Information
The seasoned Ohio debt-relief attorneys at Fesenmyer Cousino Weinzimmer can help debtors dealing with harassment and threats of a lawsuit, even if a civil lawsuit, wage garnishment or car repossession is already pending against you. If bankruptcy is the answer, we will make sure it is done correctly, so you can stop collections and lawsuits and regain your peace of mind.
Call our offices or contact us online to set up your free consultation to examine your individual financial situation today.