It's a new year, a time for renewal and a time for hope. But most of us have heard way too much about the economic crisis and how it's impacting in all our lives. So our hope has to be tempered with a healthy dose of reality. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to still have a job, one that enables you to live fairly comfortably and pay your bills. For others, times are tough and the debts are piling up.
In such a climate, debt collection professionals have had to tighten their belts as well. It's become much more difficult for them to do their jobs because folks who would ordinarily somehow come up with the cash, simply cannot. Bill collecting agencies are being forced, by necessity to become more creative and aggressive.
Lawyers, specializing in consumer law, have been seeing recent rises in abuses of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Commonly known as the FDCPA, this act is the law that protects all of us against unlawful debt collection tactics. In some cases the methods they use are ingenious and quite frightening.
In most states, there is a Statute of Limitations that puts a cap on the number of years a debt can be pursued. In many states, it's six years. Well, now there is a whole new thing called zombie debt collection, where the old debt rises from the dead. You might get a call demanding payment of an old bill that you thought had been laid to rest.
Some collectors contact credit bureaus, informing them that an old debt is, in fact, a new one. This is called re-aging debts and lends credibility to their shady ways, since the credit bureau is recognized as a credible source of information.
Then there is the attractive promise that a negative mark on your consumer credit report will be erased if a token payment is made. Don't fall for this. Your money will be gladly accepted, but your report will not be updated. Then to add insult to injury, the new activity may revive the statute of limitations, leading to new legal threats, perhaps even from another company.
If you are ever offered a low-rate credit card, beware. This could be the bait-and-switch trick, where you might discover old, charged-off debts tacked on to the balance owed. Of course, the card issuers state that they disclosed that the old debt would come with the card, but borrowers insist no such disclosure was ever made.
In this mean new world, one of the worst methods of harassment, has become even nastier. Verbal abuse has been taken to a new level, including demands for sex and suggestions that the debtor should consider suicide.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of some of these tactics, there are many things you can do. First of all, you should be familiar with your credit report, so that if a collection agency tries to dig up an old debt, you'll be able to dispute it.
If you are being phoned at all hours of the day and night, even though you have requested, in writing, that they cease and desist, you should document the calls. Most certainly include any messages and contacts also made to your cell phone.
Of course, it can be safer to simply not answer the phone. By simply talking to the debt collector you can re-open the file, and the statute of limitations, once expired, will re-open like a pandora's box. The caller has no obligation to read you your rights.
After being confronted with this nasty litany, you may rapidly be coming to the conclusion that you need help. As in most situations, knowledge is a good thing. Your very best defense is to know your rights, and there are trained professional lawyers who can make your life a whole lot easier.
Don't tramp through this minefield alone, contact a fair debt attorney as soon as you can. Go online to get all the details. There you will discover the pleasant fact that you don't need any money upfront. Your lawyer will be paid only when you are compensated for your suffering.
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