Consumer watchdog website NerdWallet commissioned a survey by The Harris Poll, released in January 2021, which showed that just one in seven Americans, or about 14%, report their financial situation improved during the pandemic. At the other end of the spectrum, three times as many — 42% — reported a worsening economic situation.

Among the latter group, many have tapped savings and retirement accounts or taken on increased debt loads to get by.

Unfortunately, an earlier NerdWallet survey showed that credit card payments are usually the first to be overlooked when times get tough and money is scarce. Mortgages, rents, and car payments are held to be more important, along with the basic essentials. When credit card payments are missed, or even late, the calls will begin.

What exactly are creditors and bill collectors allowed to do when you’ve missed a payment or two? What can you do to halt the nonstop calls, texts, and emails? Are they allowed to harass you?

If you’re in Kansas City, Kansas, Kansas City, Missouri, or Lincoln, Nebraska, contact us at Stecklein & Rapp. We are a team of consumer credit and bankruptcy attorneys dedicated to helping you exercise your rights under federal and state debt collection laws.

What Creditors Can and Can’t Do

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is overseen by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to regulate how bill collectors and credit agencies treat consumers. The first thing to remember: They have every right to contact you if you are delinquent on a bill, but they also are restrained from abusive practices.

The FDCPA defines the following tactics as harassment:

  • Calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Making repeated calls designed to annoy, abuse, or harass anyone who answers
  • Pretending to be attorneys or law enforcement officials
  • Overstating the amount due
  • Using profane or obscene language
  • Threatening foreclosure or repossession of property
  • Calling your friends or neighbors attempting to intimidate you
  • Calling you at work when you inform them you can’t take such calls at work

If you want the harassing emails and creditor calls to stop, under the FDCPA you can send a letter to the bill collector asking them to stop, but so long as you owe them money, they will try to get it from you, even if they just turn the collection effort over to someone else, or employ a different approach.

The Automatic Stay UnderBankruptcy Protection

Bankruptcy is a scary word, with intimations of losing everything you own and being scorned not only by creditors but also by employers, friends, and neighbors. Both Chapter 13 and Chapter 7 offer much-needed exemptions, however, so you can retain the essential building blocks of life, usually including your home, car, furnishings, clothing, tools of the trade, and retirement accounts. Since proceedings take place privately, no one needs to know that you’re reorganizing your debts (unless you owe them money).

Chapter 13 is a means to reduce and consolidate your debt into one manageable monthly payment, with the goal of paying it off in three to five years. Chapter 7 does liquidate some of your non-exempt assets to pay off creditors, but at the end of the process — generally in a few months — you’ll be debt-free.

What both forms offer is what’s called the “automatic stay.” With this order, creditors are no longer allowed to contact you in any fashion but must work through the bankruptcy trustee assigned you. If they attempt to contact or harass you, you can report them to your attorney. If they continue, the court can sanction them.

How Attorneys Can Help

If you’re facing creditor harassment, our team of experienced attorneys at Stecklein & Rapp (formerly Consumer Legal Clinic, LLC) has been fighting for people in your situation for more than 20 years. We can meet with you, discuss your situation, advise you of your options, and then help you along every step of the way, whether it’s bankruptcy or another option.

We can help get the endless calls to stop, negotiate for better terms, and help you rebuild your credit using proven methods.

With locations in Kansas City on both sides of the Kansas and Missouri state line, as well as in Lincoln, Nebraska, we are here to assist you. Contact us today for an initial consultation, and let’s get started securing your future.