Illinois bankruptcy: How far can debt collectors go?

Since the start of the recession, there have been many consumers in Illinois that have gotten behind on their bills. The stress and frustration at not been able to make ends meet and living on the verge of bankruptcy is only compounded when debt collectors begin calling non-stop. Debt collectors often only make people feel worse about not being able to pay their bills. Most people would agree that if they could pay their debts, they would be paying them; even if it is just to get debt collectors to stop calling.

What many consumers may not realize is that there are rules that debt collectors must follow. Unfortunately, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) may not be able to stop a debt collector from calling or being rude on the phone. However, it does dictate the amount of contact and the type of information they can ask for when contacting employers or family members.

According to the FDCPA, debt collectors are only allowed to contact a consumer's employer or family member one time, and only to ask for the consumer's contact information. Debt collectors may verify employment, but may not tell the employer who they are or what they are calling about. As for being rude, it is only when that rudeness descends into threats of physical violence, publication of the consumer's name, the use of obscene language, or repeated contact that is specifically designed to harass a consumer that the behavior may be in violation of the FDCPA.

The problem is that most Illinois consumers are not aware of the provisions of the FDCPA, and feel as if there is nothing they can do to stop the actions of a debt collector. Anyone that feels that a debt collector has violated the act may seek advice and assistance in handling the situation. Unfortunately, many debt collectors are skilled at simply skirting the line, but not crossing it when it comes to their contact with consumers. Consumers that are simply unable to pay back the debt may want to consider filing bankruptcy in order to stop creditors from contacting them about their credit card debt and other obligations. Creditors are not allowed to continue collection efforts during the course of a bankruptcy, so filing could give a consumer the time and space they need to deal with their financial situation.

Source: consumeraffairs.com, "Debt collectors: abusive or just aggressive?" Mark Huffman, April 1, 2013 

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