Debt Collector

Can Creditors Still Contact Me After I Enroll in a Debt Relief Program?

Written by Steve Rhode

Question:

Dear Steve,

Loss of income, just need some relief.

Once you enter the debt relief program, are creditors still allowed to contact you?

Curtis

Answer:

Dear Curtis,

While your question is missing a lot of detail and information, you raise a great question.

The answer is not as easy as you would hope.

I suspect you are asking this question because your phone is blowing up with collection calls and letters in your mailbox are arriving in an attempt to collect a debt.

Since I don’t know what debt relief option you might be talking about, let’s look at each of the major options.

Bankruptcy

When you file bankruptcy you are hiring an attorney to legally represent you. Once your creditors and debt collectors are notified you are being represented by an attorney, by law they should no longer contact you.

If you are filing bankruptcy, tell any creditor or debt collector that might call who your attorney is and provide them with the attorney contact information. If you have a bankruptcy case number, you can give them that as well. You can be polite but that’s all you need to tell them. This is typically a one and done situation. You tell them once, and they stop calling.

Credit Counseling

Credit counseling agencies typically have a very orderly process in place that connects with creditors but smaller third party debt collectors might not get onboard quite as efficiently.

If you are enrolled in a credit counseling program and still being contacted by a creditor or debt collector, call your counseling agency and ask them for specific advice on how to handle the issue. A customer service representative there might just deal with this for you.

In most cases, the calls will then stop unless the creditor and/or debt collector do not agree to the proposed or available payment.

There is no legal obligation that they stop contacting you once you enroll in a credit counseling program. Credit counseling agencies will typically not send the cease communication letter I talk about below.

Debt Settlement

A debt settlement approach can be much more problematic. The settlement company typically gives you a smaller monthly payment than the creditors are expecting. This is done arbitrarily and without creditor or collector cooperation.

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The settlement company will stop making payments to the creditor or collector and you will default on the debt. This will ramp up collection contact.

Some settlement companies rush to send cease communication letters to creditors or collectors in an effort to get them to stop contacting you. However, these letters have no authority with the actual creditor that you owe. They can stop communications with a third-party debt collector but that’s not always desired.

However, one of the consequences of sending a cease communications letter is to accelerate your account going from collections to the legal department or attorney for action, including suing you.

A smarter approach is for your settlement company to not send cease communication letters but to educate you on how to be polite to callers and what to say and not say. Alternatively, you can just change your telephone number and not answer the calls.

You are better off allowing your account to flow through the normal collection queue process than quickly kicking it out to the legal department.

Talk to your assigned settlement company representative about their process in helping you through this issue.

A settlement company can’t stop communications from the actual creditor you owe. However, if you are being represented by an attorney licensed in your state, then they should give you instructions to tell the creditor to contact that specific attorney.

Some settlement companies send a Power of Attorney letter to the creditor which a creditor is not required to recognize and this can just send you straight into the legal process.

The key here is to understand you are not legally represented by an attorney unless that attorney is licensed to practice law in your state. You can typically confirm this by going to the state bar association website for your state and looking up the attorney.

Every Other Debt Relief Scheme

There are a wide number of other debt-relief options that attempt to be clever. For example, the debt validation approach. The same guidance applies to all of these alternative options like for debt settlement.

Bottom Line

If you have enrolled in a debt relief program and are still being contacted by a creditor or collector, it can be alarming and frightening if you don’t understand what is going on.

READ  Free FDCPA and Debt Collection Violation Help Now Available from GetOutOfDebt.org

I’ve seen a lot of debt relief company marketing that says they can make collector calls stop, when in fact they can’t. They use strong language like saying they will tell creditors to stop contacting you. There is a big difference between advertising and reality.

These calls you might be receiving are stressful and that is mostly because the debt relief company has not fully explained what they can and can’t do.

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The rules about who can and can’t communicate with you are described in the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Here are the important parts of that law. “The FDCPA applies only to the collection of debt incurred by a consumer primarily for personal, family, or household purposes. It does not apply to the collection of corporate debt or to debt owed for business or agricultural purposes.”

Debt Collectors That Are Not Covered

An institution is not a debt collector under the FDCPA when it collects:

  • Another’s debts in isolated instances.
  • Its own debts it originated under its own name.
  • Debts it originated and then sold, but continues to service (for example, mortgage and student loans).
  • Debts that were not in default when they were obtained.
  • Debts that were obtained as security for a commercial credit transaction (for example, accounts receivable financing).
  • Debts incidental to a bona fide fiduciary relationship or escrow arrangement (for example, a debt held in the institution’s trust department or mortgage loan escrow for taxes and insurance).
  • Debts regularly for other institutions to which it is related by common ownership or corporate control.

Debt collectors that are not covered also include:

  • Officers or employees of an institution who collect debts owed to the institution in the institution’s name.
  • Legal process servers. – Source
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If there is anything that I missed, please post your question in the comments section below.

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About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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