Credit cards may be a convenient way to pay unexpected medical bills at the moment, but catching up on your financial responsibilities after falling sick isn’t easy. It’s not uncommon for people to fall behind in their bills and find themselves being harassed by debt collectors. Their job is to collect as much money as possible, which means they’re not going to offer up information that helps you fight back or avoid paying.
What is debt collection?
Debt collection is the process of unpaid debts being assigned to collection agencies who assume the responsibility of collecting debts on behalf of the original company. Collection agencies can also purchase debts and attempt to collect the debts on behalf of themselves. There are four ways that lenders can collect debts. They can contact you on their own, hire a collection agency to collect on their behalf, sell revolving debt to a collection agency, or even repossess the collateral associated with installment loans. One example of this is repossessing a car on a delinquent loan, selling the item at auction, and selling the remaining debt to a collection agency.
When do accounts get sent to collections?
Once you miss a payment, the countdown begins before your debt is sent to a collection agency. Different types of loans have different timeframes for being sent to collections. Credit card debt is sent to an in-house collection agency after your balance remains unpaid for 30 days. It takes unpaid mortgages a long time to be sent into foreclosure, depending on the state laws. In general, a lender will attempt to resolve the debt themselves before sending it to a collection agency and charging off the debt. All this being said, if your account has been sent to a collection agency that won’t relent, but you aren’t able to work due to illness or disability, you don’t have to just give up. In fact, there are a few steps you can take to shake off the debt collectors and get back to healing from your illness in peace and quiet.
Don’t give in.
Receiving a call from a debt collector is stressful, and you may feel pressured to make a payment. When handling debt collectors, it’s important to stay calm and take the time to consider your options. Don’t give in to the pressure of the sense of urgency created by the debt collector. Don’t agree to pay anything and never provide any payment information that can be used later. Ask for as much information as you can about the debt so you can be informed. Making just one meager payment is an acknowledgment of your debt, and it can come back to bite you. The statute of limitations could be reset on a past-due debt and inadvertently result in a lawsuit or wage garnishment.
Get the facts.
When a lender sells a debt to a third party, who may resell the debt again, record keeping often gets lost in the mix. Sold debts often have errors about who owes how much. Not surprisingly, these collection practices are the single largest source of consumer complaints in the United States. Many consumers are falsely asked to pay debts that they don’t owe.
It’s important to get the complete facts on a debt by requesting a written notice from the debt collector. You should receive a written notice within five business days after the first contact. A validation letter shows the details of the debt, the collection company, and how you can challenge the debt. Collect as much information as you can about the lender and your payment history. Be sure to maintain records of communication with the debt collector and any previous payments.
If legal action is taken regarding the debt, and you find yourself making a court appearance, it’s important to follow a dress code. How you dress has an impact on how you are perceived by a judge and jury (if there is one). Wearing the appropriate attire shows respect for the law. It should go without saying that the courthouse is no place to flaunt piercings, tattoos, or bright hair colors.
As a rule of thumb, proper attire for a court hearing for women is a blouse and skirt with an appropriate hemline and simple jewelry accessories. Appropriate attire for men is a casual dress shirt and nice slacks and groomed facial hair (if you have any). Men and women should opt for neutral colors that make you seem reliable and approachable, such as blue, gray, beige, or brown. A clean and simple presentation is the best way to make a good impression.
Know your rights.
You have consumer rights that are protected by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The law outlines your consumer rights and protects you from harassing collection tactics. Under the FDCPA you have the right to specify how and when debt collectors can contact you, if at all. Debt collectors are forbidden from using profane or threatening language during any communication.
The FDCPA protects you from debt collection scams by enforcing honesty on the side of debt collectors. They’re not allowed to be misleading about themselves, the balance on your unpaid debt, or the legal repercussions of not making a payment. According to the FDCPA, you have the right to challenge the debt. If you challenge the debt within 30 days of the first contact, the debt collector is prohibited from asking for payment until the dispute is settled. You can challenge the debt after 30 days, but at that point, the debt collector is legally allowed to seek payment during an open dispute.
It’s a good idea to seek legal advice from a law firm that specializes in consumer law if your protections under the FDCPA have been violated. Working with a consumer rights advocate who has years of experience protecting clients from abusive debt collection practices is the best way to understand your next step. Legal Rights Advocates, Inc. is the premier resource for the FDCPA and debt collection harassment practices.
Their attorneys are ready to help you file a lawsuit against a debt collector for harassment. Depending on the outcome of your legal proceedings, your attorney fees may be paid by the collector. Schedule your free consultation at yourlegalrightsadvocates.com to learn your rights and fight back against harassing debt collection agencies.
Work on rebuilding your credit score.
The next step following the resolution of your debt is to focus on rebuilding your credit score. Depending on the hit to your credit score, it could take months, if not years, to rebuild your credit. There are several smart strategies you can follow to rebuild your credit score, so long as you are willing to put in the effort.
Make a point of paying all your bills on time. Your payment history plays a major role in determining your FICO score. Keep your credit card balances low, and make sure you can manage the monthly payments. Always pay your monthly balance in full when possible to save on interest.
Switch to a secured credit that requires you to put down a deposit to open the card. This is a safe way to work with a minimal credit limit while rebuilding your credit score. It’s also a good idea to report your on-time rent payments to credit bureaus using a third-party service. Proof of a positive rental payment history can benefit your credit score.
Consider alternative sources of funds.
Facing a life-threatening illness is scary enough without the worry of paying for medical bills or debt that has gotten out of control. Many life insurance policyholders name surviving family members or a spouse as beneficiaries to the death benefits paid out by the insurance provider. Policyholders don’t often realize that they can sell their life insurance for a lump-sum cash payout to provide immediate financial assistance. Funds from viatical settlements are not taxed, and they can be used for anything at all, which means that you can use them to pay off old debts.
The financial transaction of a life insurance policy from a Viator (the insurance policyholder) to a third-party viatical settlement provider is known as a viatical settlement. The business of viatical settlements allows for the sale of insurance policies to viatical settlement providers for a cash payout less than the policy’s death benefit and more than the cash surrender value.
Viatical settlement brokers are licensed to negotiate a viatical settlement contract between the Viator and a viatical settlement provider. Viatical settlement companies such as American Life Fund work directly with the owner of an insurance policy to offer the best price for their life settlement. Insurance is designed to give you peace of mind against the what-ifs in life. A viatical settlement may be a good idea if you are facing financial uncertainty due to illness.
Cancer patients turn to life settlement brokers as a source of financial relief because viatical settlement companies are one of few options in the life settlement industry that puts a significant sum of interest-free cash into viators’ accounts. Instead of being burdened by paying future premium payments to a life insurance company, viators can apply the funds from the life settlement toward medical expenses, alternative treatments, household bills, and other expenses that will save beneficiaries future headaches.
When dealing with debt collectors, it’s important to stay calm, get the necessary information, and understand your rights so that you can take the best course of action to resolve your dispute.