Creditors and debt collector aren't allowed to contact you after you file your bankruptcy case with the court. If a creditor contacts you anyway, it's usually by mistake. Answer the phone, tell them about your pending bankruptcy, and request that they stop calling. If they continue to contact you, let the court know right away, so they can put an end to it immediately and, if appropriate, punish the creditor for their conduct.
Written by Attorney Andrea Wimmer.
Updated December 1, 2023
Filing bankruptcy is meant to give you a breather from persistent collection calls. That's why the automatic stay goes into effect as soon as you file your case. You don’t have to wait for your discharge to be entered to be protected from creditor action.
Can Creditors Contact You After You File Your Bankruptcy Case?
The Bankruptcy Code contains very specific (and strict) rules about what creditors can do after you file your bankruptcy case. These rules apply whether you filed a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 case. According to these rules, creditors and debt collectors aren't allowed to contact you to talk about your debt with them once you've filed your petition with the court
If you recently filed your case and a creditor calls you, it's possible they haven't yet received notice from the court that your case has been filed. Most folks find that the most effective thing to do in this situation is simply answer the phone and tell the person that called that you've filed for bankruptcy protection.
It helps to 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 if the Creditor Should Know About Your Case By Now?
Let's say it's been a while since you filed, you've received the official court notice for your case (you'll get the same notice that is sent to your creditors), and then a creditor contacts you .
In that case, double-check that the creditor’s mailing address matching the information you provided to the court on your creditor matrix. If it doesn't, the creditor may not have received the notice.
That said, you're still protected even if the court sent the notice to the wrong address. Again, just give the person on the other end of the call your case number. This should be enough to end future calls.
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What Should You Do if You Gave the Bankruptcy Court the 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're not adding a new creditor (only changing the mailing address for a creditor you already listed) you won't have to pay 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 Should You Do if You Realize You Forgot To List a Creditor?
It's not uncommon for people to forget to list one of their creditors on their bankruptcy schedules. This is especially common if a debt collector has recently taken over your account.
If this happen to you, prepare and file and amendment to your Schedule F (assuming this is an unsecurednon-priority creditor) so that this missed creditor will receive a copy of all future notices. There is a $34 amendment filing fee to add a new creditor. The fee is the same 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 Give Them Your Bankrupty Case Number?
Generally speaking, creditors know that they are forbidden from contacting you after they have actual notice of a bankruptcy filing. They usually stop contacting you as soon as they get a case number from you. If a creditor continues to contact you (by phone, mail, or other means) after you've given them 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's helpful to tell the court the exact dates and times the creditor contacted you, especially if they say they did nothing wrong.
Ultimately, if the court finds that the creditor simply doesn't 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.