What to Do If Credit Card Companies Won’t Leave You Alone

If you have significant credit card debt, credit card companies and debt collectors may pursue you with relentless messaging and phone calls. No matter what you do or say, they won’t seem to leave you alone.

What can you do if you feel trapped in this situation?

First Steps to Take

These are some of the most important steps to take first:

Conduct a personal financial assessment. Sit down and conduct a personal financial assessment. How much debt do you really have and how is that debt distributed? How much money do you currently have and what are your assets currently worth? How much money are you earning and how much money are you spending every month? This can help you determine whether you can use personal finance strategies to climb out of this situation.

Talk to a lawyer (or multiple lawyers). Certain types of lawyers may be able to help you with your situation. For example, a bankruptcy lawyer will explain the various types of bankruptcy and how they might improve your situation. Filing for bankruptcy isn’t fun, and it does come with some serious drawbacks, but it could also help you discharge or restructure your debt so you can continue living your life. If debt collectors are harassing you, a lawyer may also be able to help end the harassment.

Start keeping records. It’s important to keep thorough records of all communications you’ve had with credit card companies and debt collectors. If you haven’t been keeping these records so far, now is the time to start. Record phone calls (if legal to do so in your area) and keep copies of all written communications as well.

Create a plan and stick to it. Once you understand a bit more about this situation, create a plan and stick to it.

Your Options

So what options do you have to deal with credit card companies who won’t leave you alone?

Address erroneous information with evidence. For starters, evaluate whether you’re being pursued for debt that is truly yours. You cannot inherit debt from a deceased parent or relative unless you cosigned a loan or credit card. If you’re being targeted for debt you have nothing to do with, find evidence that this debt isn’t yours and address the erroneous information directly. 

Negotiate with collectors or credit card companies. You may be able to negotiate with credit card companies directly. Most credit card companies want to secure steady revenue and make sure their customers pay at least some of their debts. Accordingly, they may be willing to negotiate with you. Depending on your situation, they may be able to waive certain fees, reduce your interest rate, or change the terms of your agreement to make it easier for you to pay back your debts. You may want to use a debt settlement company or a financial counseling company to assist with your debt issues.

File for bankruptcy. If you feel like you can never climb out of debt, one of your best options may be to file for bankruptcy protection. A Chapter 7 allows a person to discharge all unsecured debt and possibly other types of debt as well. Other types of bankruptcy allow you to restructure your debt from the ground up to make it more manageable.

The Fair Debt Collection Practice Act (FDCPA). The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is a federal law that was created to eliminate abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors. The law lists general conduct and language that is prohibited, in connection with any type of communication that is deemed harassment, abuse, false, misleading, or unfair practices. The law also provides additional details about specific acts that are prohibited regarding a certain type of communication. For example, a debt collector must limit their telephone calls to the debtor between the hours of 8:00am and 9:00pm.  

Send a letter to your debt collector. Pursuant to the FDCPA laws, a debt collector must stop communicating with you after receiving a letter referred to as a request to cease communication. Use a template from the FTC to draft a letter requesting cessation of all contact and send it to the companies communicating with you. After receipt of the notice, the company is only going to have a few options. First, they can send you one final communication letting you know that they will no longer be reaching out to you. Second, if they choose, they can begin filing a lawsuit against you to formalize their pursuit of payment.

Practicing Better Financial Habits

No matter what course of action you choose, it’s a good idea to start practicing better financial habits, so you don’t land yourself in this situation again.

Don’t take on too much bad debt. Debt spirals out of control quickly. Don’t take it on unless necessary.

Live below your means. Create a strict budget and stick to it.

Make plans to pay off your debts. If you do take on debt, make sure you have a plan for how and when  you’re going to pay it off.

Personal finances are tough to manage, especially if you don’t have much experience. If you’re being relentlessly pursued by credit card companies and debt collectors, financial matters are even more stressful. But no matter what, there are options available and there’s a path forward. Try to remain optimistic and investigate all of your options carefully.

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