Many of us have been through the daily exercise of screening our phone calls because we don’t recognize the phone number, and are 99% sure it’s either a solicitation or a creditor calling. Why would you answer a call from someone you don’t know, that you do know is going to want something from you? Simply put, you don’t.
Not answering calls from known creditors isn’t a bad tactic either. However, there are some things you should be do, or at least be aware of before you ignore the call and carry on with your day.
For starters, if you are in, have been, or are going into bankruptcy, under any chapter, ALWAYS document your communications from creditors. This applies to phone calls, voicemails, letters, texts, or even in person solicitations (though I doubt you get many of those). Why?
So that you can possibly get your debt discharged, and potentially even an award in damages! That’s right, creditors can be sued for violating many laws that are in place to protect you, the consumer/debtor. Unfortunately, many of our clients, and the populace at large, are not aware that when they receive certain forms of communications, under the right circumstances, that a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), or Texas Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (TFDCPA) if you’re a Texas consumer; sometimes a creditor’s actions may allow for claims on both acts listed above.
The point is that creditors must follow certain guidelines, and that many times these laws are violated, or outright ignored when a debtor has filed for bankruptcy, sometimes they’re violated without even filing for bankruptcy.
As pointed out in other posts, the reason a creditor cannot call or communicate further is because filing for bankruptcy puts an automatic stay on all debt, meaning creditors must cease communicating with you, the debtor, and start negotiating with your attorneys. When they don’t there’s a good chance they’re in violation of both the FDCPA and the TFDCPA.
Why does this matter? In general terms it’s because if they did once, they did it numerous other times and rather than fight these violations it’s to their benefit to pay or discharge whatever debt is involved with the debtor so they can move on to harassing other people.
So, now that you know why you should document calls from creditors, what do you do next?
Document All Communications:
If you get a letter in the mail and wonder if you’re creditor is violating the laws talked about above, save the letter and give it to your attorney. If you receive a voicemail or text from a creditor, screenshot the occurrence and save it for your attorney. In short, document everything because the more you have that shows they’re violating the debt collection practices acts the easier it’ll be to have your debt discharged, and just as important, might open you up to receiving rewards from the creditor.
What about if you answer the phone? Again, it doesn’t take much, and the creditors all have systems they use where they save their conversations. However, it’s best to be meticulous so here’s what we recommend:
- Answer the call and wait for the creditor/debt collector to disclose what the call is about.
- If they don’t tell you what they’re calling for write it down! Save this and the time of the call.
- If they do disclose they’re calling as a debt collector in an attempt to collect debt then do this:
- Firstly, if you’re not represented and are thinking about filing for bankruptcy then you need to do this. However, even if you don’t plan on filing and just want to dispute a debt then make sure you are represented by an attorney!
- Second, assuming you are represented by an attorney or have filed for bankruptcy say these magic words, “I’m sorry, you will have to speak to my attorney about X. I have representation, and they have sent (or will send) a formal notice to your office. Please do not call me anymore. Thank you.”
That’s it. Once you explicitly state that you’re being represented with regards to the debt they’re calling on, and tell them as much and to cease calling then any further attempt to collect from you directly on that debt will likely be a violation of both the FDCPA and the TFDCPA. Once that happens the creditor is opening up the flood gates to have your debt discharged and possibly creating alternate channels to receive settlement awards on top of that.