If you have debt such as credit card debt, personal loans, medical bills, and vehicle loans, we may be able to help if you are being sued in court or harassed by creditors.
If you are being harassed for a debt, follow these steps:
- Explain your situation to your creditor. By contacting the creditor first, you may avoid having the debt turned over to a collection agency or debt buyer, which will usually be less flexible than the creditor in working out a payment plan.
- Tell your creditor to stop contacting you in writing. If collection efforts do not stop, you should write the collector a cease collection letter. Federal and Pennsylvania Law requires collection agencies to stop contacts with you after they receive a written request to stop. Keep a copy of the letter for your records.
All the letter has to say is the following:
“Effective today, Please cease and desist all collection efforts and contact regarding the above account. Please note that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Law requires you to honor this request to stop communicating with me.”
- Complain to a government agency. For creditor harassment, or if a debt collector keeps harassing you, or calls third parties after you ask them to stop, file a complaint with state or federal agencies.
- Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) .
Can debt collectors call me?
Yes, but there are limits as to when and how a collection agency or creditor may contact you. They also may not contact you at work if they know your employer does not allow you to receive personal calls.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the federal agency in charge of protecting consumers, writes, "Generally, debt collectors cannot call you at an unusual time or place, or at a time or place they know is inconvenient to you and they are prohibited from contacting you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m." CFBP - Debt Collection Info Page
What if I can't afford to pay my debts?
If you are unable to pay your debts, your creditor may begin the process of trying to collect the money you owe. They may call, write letters or begin a lawsuit against you.
It is important to use your available resources to meet your basic needs, such as, housing and food. There are resources available to help you budget, such as non-profit consumer counseling agencies. You should be careful about working with debt consolidation companies that charge a fee to "negotiate" or "settle" your debts.
If you need help because you are being harassed, contact the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office or a consumer protection attorney. If you have been sued contact NPLS or a consumer law attorney immediately.
What if my debt is really old?
If you have not made payments on your debt in more than four (4) years, your creditor may not be allowed to file a lawsuit to collect the debt. Many consumer debts such as, credit cards and medical debts have a 4 year statute of limitations. This means that a creditor must file a lawsuit less than four years after your last payment, although the debt may remain on your credit report for longer.
If you are being sued or threatened to be sued for an old debt, you should contact a consumer attorney to talk about your options.