3 Things You Need to Know Before Settling a Debt with a Creditor
[TRANSCRIPT] So there are three things you need to know before settling a debt either on the phone or in response to a letter with a creditor. There is a body of federal law called the fair debt collection practices act and it governs what debt collectors can and cannot do. There's also a body of state law here in Georgia The Consumer Protection Law that protects consumers when a creditor is attempting to collect a debt.
The three probably most important things that you should know though is:
1. That there is a statute of limitations on the collection of debt and for many of my clients and potential clients -- there's a misconception about the statute of limitations… it's either four or six years depending on the type of account that's being collected but it's four or six years from the date of last payment or the date of default, not from the date that you opened the account. Just know that if a creditor attempts to collect a debt past that statute of limitations either four or six years they're actually prevented from collecting; they can no longer legally make the attempts to collect a debt and so you can use that as a defense. Now a judge won't tell you if you've been sued by creditor that the statute of limitations applies; it's up to the consumer to know, or the consumer’s attorney to know that that statute of limitations applies. Again just an important fact to know that there is a statute of limitations on the collection of debt in Georgia.
2. The second thing is creditors in their attempts to collect from you have to abide by that body of federal law called the fair debt collection practices act as well as state consumer protection laws and one of the big things that they can't do is misrepresent facts. If in their phone calls to you, or in their letters to you, they lie that's against the law - not only can you use it as a defense to get out of paying the debt but you may actually be able to use it in a lawsuit against them. What I typically tell clients is if they say something to you in a phone conversation or in a letter that just doesn't feel right in your gut, chances are, it's against the law and they can't do it. Any misrepresentation in any way saying that you owe more than you really do owe; saying that you owe more interest on an account then you really do owe; saying that they can have you fired or arrested or, you know, anything along those lines is actually not true and they cannot use it in their attempts to collect the debt.
3. The third thing that is not known by most people, is that there is a time that they can contact you, a window of time between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. If they call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. it's against the law and again not only can you use it as a defense to get out of a debt potentially but you can also use it in a claim against that creditor, because they have violated your rights by calling you before 8 a.m. or 9 p.m. Another common one is repetitive or harassing phone calls and just in the numbers of calls. So I have clients that call me all the time that say I got 7 phone calls before 8 o'clock you know from this creditor and that would constitute harassment under the fair debt collection practices act. So again know that you have rights.
I'm attorney Chuck Douglas we will help you fight back and win.