Do you want to stop debt collection companies? You may need to do more than to request that they stop contacting you.
Written by Kristin Turner, Harvard Law Grad.
Updated November 9, 2020
When you're unable to pay debts, creditors may transfer or sell your accounts to debt collection companies. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), debt collection companies either collect debts for others (for a fee) or purchase the debts to collect for themselves. Debt collectors may be individuals or debt collection companies.
The CFPB makes 2 things very clear on its website. Debt collectors aren't allowed to harass you and you can tell them to stop contacting you, but you have to do it in writing. Keep in mind though, telling a debt collection company to stop contacting you doesn't get rid of the debt.
Therefore, if you want to get rid of the debts, you need to do something more.
Ways to Stop Debt Collection Companies for Good
There are several ways that you can stop debt collection companies forever. The best option for stopping debt collection companies depends on your specific financial situation.
Paying the Debt
Of course, paying debt collection companies will stop them from contacting you. Of course, unless your financial situation has drastically changed since the debt went into collection in the first place, this is probably not an option for you.
Taking out a loan to pay debt collection companies can also be a very risky way to stop debt collection activities. You might get rid of the debts, but if you can't pay the loan, you face an entirely different type of debt.
Find out more about debt consolidation here.
Debt Consolidation Companies
In some cases, a debt consolidation company can help you stop debt collection companies from pursuing a debt through a debt management plan. But, debt consolidation companies charge fees for their services. Some of the companies charge expensive fees that add to the amount you owe.
In addition, some of your creditors may not work with the company. Those creditors, and any of the debt collection companies, can begin legal action to collect the debt at any time.
Many people discover they pay much more to get rid of debt by using a debt consolidation company. The additional interest paid to creditors and the fees to the company can add a significant amount of money to the total of the original debt.
Find out more about debt management plans here.
Debt Settlement Negotiations
Debt settlement negotiations may also stop debt collection companies, but you'll need ready access cash to pay the settlements immediately. With a larger sum of money, you offer each creditor a percentage of what is owed on the account to satisfy the debt in full. If the creditor accepts your offer, you pay the debt, and the account is closed.
However, there are several problems with debt settlement negotiations to stop debt collection companies. Some companies may not accept an amount that is lower than the payoff. Other companies may demand a higher percentage to settle the debt.
Another issue is the amount of the debt written off after you pay the settlement. The creditor reports the unpaid amount to the IRS. You will likely be required to report this amount on your income tax return which could increase your taxable income.
Find out more about debt settlement negotiations here. If you've been sued, the article titled Find Out How to Settle Credit Card Debt Before Going to Court in Six Steps may also be of interest.
Is There a Better Way to Stop Debt Collection Companies?
If you're unable to pay your bills because you don't have enough income, you may want to consider filing Chapter 7. Filing Chapter 7 stops debt collection companies immediately.
As soon as you file your Chapter 7 bankruptcy petition, the automatic stay stops creditors from attempting to collect a debt.
Debt collection companies must stop calling you and writing you letters demanding payment. They can't take legal action or continue legal action, such as a debt collection lawsuit, without court approval.
The automatic stay remains in effect throughout your Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
Discharging Debts in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Case
In a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case, you can get rid of most, if not all, of your unsecured debts. Unsecured debts that are typically eligible for discharge include:
Credit card debts
Old utility bills
Old rent or lease payments
Some old income tax debts
Alimony, child support, and student loans are non-dischargeable debts in a Chapter 7 case.
Secured debts, such as your mortgage and your car loan, survive the bankruptcy case unless you surrender the collateral. If you surrender the collateral to the creditor, the creditor cannot seek a deficiency judgment, even if the loan is not paid in full.
Therefore, surrendering a home or car that is upside down through a Chapter 7 case is a good way to get rid of the debt without paying any money to the creditor.
Will I Lose Property if I File Chapter 7?
If you choose a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case to stop debt collection companies, you may not lose any property in the bankruptcy filing.
Bankruptcy exemptions allow debtors to protect the equity in the property from the court and the Chapter 7 trustee. In most Chapter 7 cases, a debtor does not have any non-exempt property after applying the bankruptcy exemptions.
What Happens If I Ignore Debt Collection Companies?
Ignoring debt collection companies may work for a while. Your credit rating will continue to suffer as debt collection companies continue to report the money owed as bad debt.
However, debt collection companies may choose to file a debt collection lawsuit. The lawsuit seeks payment of the debt, interest, costs, and attorney fees.
If you don't respond to a debt collection lawsuit, the company may obtain a default judgment. Judgments are unsecured debts; however, debt collection companies may have other options for collecting a judgment.
Some states allow creditors who hold judgments to obtain a wage garnishment order. Therefore, you may suddenly lose a substantial portion of your wages, depending on the laws in your state.
In other states, a judgment holder can file a supplemental proceeding to attempt to collect the money owed from your personal assets. Most states allow judgments to attach to real estate so that you cannot sell your home without paying the judgment.
A Chapter 7 case allows you to erase debt from judgments.
I Cannot Afford to Hire a Bankruptcy Attorney to File Chapter 7
Many people who struggle with debt problems don't have the money to hire a bankruptcy attorney to file their case. If you can afford to hire a bankruptcy lawyer, that is great. However, if you can't afford an attorney, we want to help.
Take our screener to see if Upsolve's free bankruptcy process can help you get out of debt at no charge to you. Our free tool is available to low-income individuals who need debt relief but can't afford to hire a bankruptcy attorney.
Upsolve is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to assisting individuals to get out of debt, so they can get a fresh start to recover and rebuild after a financial crisis. Whether you lost your job, had an accident, or overused credit cards, you can file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
Eligible individuals can use Upsolve’s free web app to prepare their bankruptcy forms and file their Chapter 7 case on their own ("pro se"). Our app is free for those who qualify. Just answer a few questions to find out if you're eligible to use our free tool.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2017). What is a debt collector and why are they contacting me?. Retrieved August 11, 2020, from https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-is-a-debt-collector-and-why-are-they-contacting-me-en-330/
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (2017). What is harassment by a debt collector?. Retrieved August 7, 2020, from https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-is-harassment-by-a-debt-collector-en-336/
- American Bankruptcy Institute. (2002). Bankruptcy by the Numbers - Chapter 7 Asset Cases. ABI Journal. Retrieved August 4, 2020, from https://www.abi.org/abi-journal/chapter-7-asset-cases