May 07, 2021
Summary: Debt collectors use the same scare tactics over and over because they work. Learn their tricks and how to fight back.
Debt collection is a $10 billion industry. Each year, 70 million Americans are unable to pay their debts, and fall into the trap of debt collection. Typically this revenue comes from people who fall behind on student loans or medical bills, but others may be unable to pay their credit card bills or mortgage.
If you are being pursued for a consumer debt, you may have not even been aware of that debt until a debt collector contacts you. This might come in the form of a letter asking you to appear in court, or you might receive a call.
Harassment by a debt collector is illegal. If you are being pursued for debt, you should know about these 7 debt collector scare tactics.
The debt collector's income is influenced by you and other consumers paying their debts. This means that if a debt collector has been assigned to you, they are most likely going to attempt to scare you by calling you constantly. The purpose of this is to overwhelm you so that you get scared and frustrated by their excessive calls. The plan and hope are that you will do anything to get them to stop, especially pay the debt.
This tactic is used to get to you mentally. They hope that you do not know that you can legally ignore them. You do not even need to answer the phone. The only time you must respond is if you have been served with a legal notice to appear in court. Even then, this is a formal “Answer” sent to the court.
If a debt collector is attempting to scare you into paying a debt by calling you incessantly, you can write a “cease and desist” letter. Keep a copy of this because once it is received, they can no longer legally call you. Despite this, they may take other courses of action to collect the debt.
If you decide to allow the debt collector to speak to you, one popular scare tactic is to push you into thinking they have more power than they do. They will try to make you think that if you do not pay your debt immediately, that they have the power to garnish your wages.
Garnishing wages occurs after a judgment is obtained. This is a long process and is not something that will be done quickly. That is why this is considered a popular scare tactic. Debt collectors often exaggerate the truth.
For a debt collector to go into your bank account or take money from your paycheck, you will have needed to go through the entire legal process. They also need to obtain permission from a judge. If there has been no legal action taken against you, then they have no right to garnish your wages.
Debt collectors often try to tell you that you have a deadline to pay your debt. They might suggest you will be forced to pay additional fees if you do not pay by a certain date. This is simply not true. There are deadlines by which the debt collector cannot legally bring you to court any longer (based on the Statute of Limitations). If a debt collector tries to tell you otherwise, they are trying to scare you, and they may be violating the FDCPA.
Some debt collectors may attempt to scare you into paying an extremely old debt. This is where the statute of limitations comes into play. Every state has a statute of limitations that make it impossible to sue you for older debt. Most often the statute of limitations runs four to six years but can be anywhere from two to 20 years as well. This is also known as time-barred debt.
It is important to note that if you make a payment on a time-barred debt, you will start the statute of limitations over again. This means that the debt can become eligible for collection again. Debt collectors may commonly try to convince you to pay on a time-barred debt to bring it alive again. This is why it is essential if a debt collector contacts you, to verify the debt.
Although paying off your debt will eventually improve your credit score, it will not change anything for about seven years. What they should be telling you is that it will prevent further damage to your credit score.
Even if you are in debt, it does not mean that you can be harassed by debt collectors. Any debt collector must prove that they have the right to sue you or pursue you for a debt under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
It is completely illegal to mention your debt to anyone other than your spouse. Under the FDCPA if a debt collector shares your personal financial information publicly, then you can report them.
Calls from a collection agency are never fun. They might use intimidating language, be extremely demanding, and be overall very persistent. Their only goal is to push you to pay the debt that they believe you owe. In some cases, you may not even owe the debt but you might even simply pay the debt to avoid the debt collector.
Laws protect you as a consumer from debt collectors. Credit card debt, medical bills, student loans, mortgages, and other kinds of household debt are typically sold to debt collectors. From that point on, the Fair Debt Collection Privacy Act (FDCPA) protects you. This only applies to third-party debt collectors but protects you from harassment and a variety of other unfair practices.
Although debt collectors may use scare tactics in an attempt to make you pay your debt, their scare tactics are not always legal. Always refer to the FDCPA and report a debt collector using unfair scare tactics to retrieve your debt.
SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.
How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.
"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James
Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? We're making guides on how to beat each one.
Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.