Harassing phone calls from debt collectors can substantially increase your stress level, ruin your sleep, strain your marriage, and generally make your life miserable. However, there are rules which third party debt collectors must follow. These rules are set out in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Most debt collectors understand this and stay on the right side of the rules. Some don’t. For instance, if someone tells you that you are going to jail if you don’t pay your credit card bill, they are lying and violating the law.
The first step you can take is to send the debt collector a letter and tell them all future communication must be in writing. Keep a copy of the letter for yourself! If they continue to call you, document the calls by date, type and (if you can get it) whatever name the collector is using (probably not their actual name0 and the name of the company.
If that doesn’t work, you can hire me to deal with the collector. Doing so will not make the debt go away, but they’ll be very polite when they call me.
Fundamentally, if you have debts in collection, you have several choices:
Pay the bill. A lot of time you can get a discount on the amount of the debt for a lump sum payment. (Note: You’ll get a 1099C at the end of the year).
Dispute the debt – it may be a different person, you may have returned the merchandise, someone may have stolen your identity
File bankruptcy and get a debt discharge or repayment plan
Deal with the debt collectors as they come.