When a creditor calls, and tells you that you owe money (as if you didn’t already know), or when you see increasingly “urgent” envelopes in your mailbox, it can be very stressful. You can forget your rights, and become flustered. However, before you give in to a scary phone call, make sure that you take stock and understand your rights.

Even though you should probably pay the debt you have incurred, it doesn’t mean that you have to be subjected to undignified treatment. And you still have rights. The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) sets forth some of your rights. Make sure you understand them, and be guarded against those who violate the FDCPA.

Your Basic Rights as a Debtor

If you owe money, you still have some rights. This isn’t 300 years ago, when you could be thrown in prison in some cases for owing money. Here are some of the rights that you have:

  • If you ask the creditor (in writing is best) to stop contacting you about the collection, they have to stop pestering you.
  • Creditors can’t contact you at work if you let them know the employer doesn’t allow it.
  • Creditors can’t tell third parties (other than your spouse or your attorney) about your debt.
  • You can’t be told lies in order to extort payment, including threats that you can be arrested for failure to pay.
  • You can’t be bothered by phone calls at unreasonable hours.
  • Creditors can’t harass or demean you.

Keep track of interactions with creditors, and make sure that you report abuses to the proper authorities. Take notes about who calls you, along with the date and time, and what was said. If it is allowed in your state, you can even make recordings of the calls, so that you can back up your story.

Creditors Can Still Try to Collect

Realize, too, that just because creditors can’t keep pestering you directly about what you owe, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook, or that your creditors have no recourse. It’s possible for you to be sued for nonpayment of the debt. You can be taken to court to deal with this issue, and that usually means fees, and some sort of ruling.

Also, even though you won’t be tossed in jail for failing to pay your debt, you can be arrested if you fail to obey a summons to court. So, pay attention to the legalities involved if a creditor decides to sue. If you have a lawyer, you can direct that all communication be directed through your representative so that you don’t have to deal with the creditor, and so that someone knowledgeable handles all the transactions.

You do have rights, even though you owe money to someone else. Chances are, though, that you are in your position because you don’t have any way of paying your bills. If you are experiencing hardship, look for agencies that can help you, and consider your options for settlement or reduction. In many cases, you might be able to settle with your creditor if you truly are in trouble.