There are few things more annoying and disconcerting than collection calls from aggressive credit card companies or debt collection agencies. As a bankruptcy law firm that provides debt counseling, we often hear stories from our clients about the tactics that are utilized, and many of them are actually illegal. Before we get into the things that you can do to protect yourself if you are being overwhelmed by collection calls, let’s take a look at some “rules to live by” that you may want to utilize to steer clear of problems with creditors.
Monitor Your Credit Report
You should always have a firm understanding of your current standing in the eyes of the credit reporting agencies. If you understand how credit scores are calculated and you know where you stand at all times, you are more likely to develop sound habits when it comes to credit utilization. There are a number of different websites on the Internet that provide credit scores or credit reports, and some of them are free. In fact, the major credit bureaus are required to provide a free credit report to anyone who requests one every calendar year. Plus, many credit cards now offer free credit scores to cardholders.
When you get your score, you can see the factors that contribute to the calculation. This knowledge can help you shape your credit usage. The length of time you have had credit is one factor, and your credit utilization ratio is an important determinant. Of course, timely payments are very important, and there is another piece of information that the bureaus use that catches many individuals by surprise. People with good credit are barraged with offers of additional lines of credit from every direction. It can seem as though you have nothing to lose if you apply for a credit card because you will get free shipping on an item, or a $50 credit on a plane fare purchase, or 6-months no interest or some other benefit. In fact, your credit score takes a hit every time you apply for an additional line of credit, even if you are approved. And your credit score will be lower if you have too many open cards even with zero balances.
Know Your Rights
If you stay abreast of your credit standing and you live within your means, you should be able to keep your credit card debt at a manageable level. Sometimes people make financial mistakes. Sometimes people who have very sound financial habits end up with overwhelming credit card balances due to circumstances that are out of their control, like medical expenses or unforeseeable living expenses.
Fortunately, you have rights under The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) that you can exercise if you are receiving collection calls. There are legal guidelines that collectors must abide by with regard to the things that they do and say, and harassment is illegal. You can sue a collector who is crossing the line, and creditor harassment is an area of specialization for our firm. For example, under this law, you can send the collectors a letter letting them to never contact you again or to only contact your attorney, and they are required to comply. The only exception is contacting you to give you a summons for a law suit.