The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a financial toll on consumers and small businesses, but the debt collection industry keeps going. Federal, state, and local governments have temporarily paused collection of some debts owed to the government (e.g. student loans and federally-backed mortgages), but private collectors continue to collect credit card debt, medical bills, and more.
Consumer debt and aggressive debt collection activity have been on the rise for a while. Now, because of the pandemic, record numbers of Americans have lost their sources of income, forcing millions to skip payments on their rent, mortgages, auto loans, and other bills.
Here are some steps consumers can take to tackle debt collection head on:
- Ask creditors for an accommodation – Consumers who believe they may fall behind on a payment should contact their creditors right away to explain their situation.
- Verify the debt – Be sure to always ask for more information and documents from your creditor or a debt collector.
When contacted by debt collectors, consumers should make sure that the debt is actually theirs before going further.
Consumers can ask the collector to send a written validation notice which will have information on the amount owed, who the creditor is, and how to dispute the debt. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has sample letters for consumers trying to communicate with debt collectors.
- Tell the collectors in writing to stop calling – If you know you can’t pay right now and you want the debt collection calls or letters to go away, you can always request that a debt collector stop contacting you.
Consumers being harassed by phone should send a certified letter telling the collector to stop calling. Make sure to keep copies of this letter. Asking the collector to stop communications may not mean the consumer no longer owes the debt but it can give consumers a chance to organize and plan their finances.
If you need help in dealing with creditors, please contact the Law Office of Robert W. Murphy. We have helped hundreds of consumers in stopping collection harassment.