Find out what to do if a creditor keeps contacting you even after your bankruptcy has been filed.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated September 3, 2020
The whole idea behind bankruptcy protection is to give you a breather from your creditors. That is why the automatic stay goes into effect as soon as your case is filed, and you don’t have to wait for your discharge to be entered, to be protected from creditor action. The Bankruptcy Code contains very specific (and strict) rules about what creditors can do after your bankruptcy case is filed, regardless of whether you filed a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 case. The bottom line is that your creditors should not contact you to talk about your debt with them once your petition has been filed with the court.
What to do if you just filed your case and creditors are still calling you constantly
If you just filed your case, it is possible that the creditor that is calling you has not yet received the notice from the court that your case has been filed. Most folks find that the most effective thing to do in that situation (when a creditor calls you shortly after your case was filed) is to answer the phone and tell the person that called that you have filed for bankruptcy protection. Provide them with your case number and the date your case was filed. Since you may need this information periodically, it will be helpful to keep a small notebook near your phone that contains this information. When you get off the phone, it is a good idea to make a quick note in your notebook (or wherever) noting the name of the creditor that called, the date and time they called, and the name of the person you spoke to.
What to do if it’s been a few days since you filed and they really should have received the notice from the bankruptcy court by now
If it has been a few days since you filed when you are contacted by a creditor and you have already received the official court notice for your case (you will get the same notice that is sent to your creditors), find out your creditor’s correct mailing address. This will then allow you to check that information with the information you provided to the court to confirm that the creditor did in fact receive the notice. However, even if it looks like the court sent the notice to the wrong address, you are still protected, and providing the person on the other end of the call your case number should be enough to end future calls.
What to do if you have provided the bankruptcy court with a wrong address for a creditor
If it turns out that the address on file with the court is incorrect (and that’s why they didn’t know that you filed for bankruptcy), you can update the creditor’s address with the court. Since you are not adding a new creditor (and only changing the mailing address for a creditor you already listed) you will not incur a court filing fee to do so. At that time, you should also send a copy of your bankruptcy notice to the creditor at the correct address, since they never received the first one. Chances are, you will get the undeliverable mail sent back to you; it’s perfectly ok to simply use the notice that was returned as undeliverable and mail that to the correct address.
What to do if you realize you forgot to list this creditor completely
If it turns out that this creditor did not receive a notice about your case because they were not listed as a creditor on your schedules (which can happen, especially if it is a debt collector who recently took over your account), you should prepare and file and amendment to your Schedule F (assuming this is an unsecurednon-priority creditor) so that this missed creditor can receive a copy of all future notices. There is a $31 court filing fee to add a new creditor (it’s $31 whether you add one creditor or a bunch of creditors). If you intentionally fail to list this additional creditor now that you know they exist, the balance you owe them may not be discharged. Even if you forgot to list the creditor on your initial schedules, as soon as you tell the creditor that you filed for bankruptcy protection, they have to stop contacting you.
What if the creditor keeps calling even after you provided them with your case number
Generally speaking, creditors know that they are forbidden from contacting you after they have actual notice of a bankruptcy filing and they will stop as soon as they get a case number from you. If a creditor continues to contact you (either by phone, mail or otherwise) even after you have provided them with your case number, you can (and should) bring this to the court’s attention. The court has as much an interest in creditors following the law by not contacting folks in bankruptcy as you do. This is also where your notes will prove helpful. It is so much more persuasive when you can tell the court the exact dates and times they contacted you, especially if they say they did nothing wrong. Ultimately, if the court finds that the creditor simply does not care that you filed for bankruptcy and intentionally continues to harass you, the court can sanction (or legally punish) them. Contact your court’s clerk’s office to find out how to bring this to the judge’s attention.
The bottom line is, creditors are not allowed to contact you after your case is filed. If a creditor contacts you anyway, chances are they made a mistake on their end and will stop all future contact as soon as you tell them about your pending bankruptcy. If they continue to contact you, you should let the court know right away, so they can put an end to it immediately and, if appropriate, punish the creditor for their conduct.