Harassment from Bill Collectors
Your health is too important to put up with harassment. The Pennsylvania Fair Credit Extension Uniformity Act prohibits unfair debt collection activities by creditors. They are not allowed to harass or abuse you. They are not allowed to threaten you with physical violence. They are not allowed to use obscene or abusive language. They should not telephone you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you have given them permission to do so. They are not allowed to call you at work once they learn that your employer does not permit such calls. If creditors violate this Act, they can be sued for actual and punitive damages and for attorney fees.
Under Federal law, a debt collector who is trying to collect a debt owed to another company is required to stop contacting you if you so request in writing. (Unfortunately, this Federal law does not apply to creditors.) If the debt collector fails to stop contacting you after you send the letter, you may be able to sue the debt collector for attorney fees and punitive damages. If you send a letter telling a debt collector to stop contacting you, you should send it by certified mail and you should keep a copy of the letter for your file. However, if you send such a letter to the debt collector, the creditor may feel that it has no choice but to file a law suit against you, obtain a judgment, and ask the Sheriff to garnish your bank account or sell your property.
There are 3 basic strategies for dealing with over-bearing creditors and debt collectors.
- You can ask Advantage Credit Counseling Service (1-866-699-2227), a free service, to negotiate an affordable repayment plan with your creditors.
- You have no legal duty to talk with creditors. You can hang up when they call. You can get an answering machine. However, if you do this, the creditor may feel that it has no choice but to file a law suit against you, obtain a judgment, and ask the Sheriff to garnish your bank account or sell your property.
- You can try to “buy yourself some time” by being cooperative. You can tell the creditor or debt collector a little about your situation, such as that you are in between jobs, or that you are temporarily disabled. You can tell them when and where they may call you next. You can also request that the creditor or debt collector please not call you at work or during certain times. If you can convince creditors or debt collectors that you are trying your best given your present situation, they may postpone taking any legal action against you and give you more time to bring your account up to date.
IMPORTANT: In Pennsylvania, there is a four (4) year statute of limitations that applies to most kinds of non-government debt (e.g., credit cards, medical bills, utility bills, etc.) The 4 years usually runs from the last payment made on the account. If you are sued more than 4 years later, you may be able to defend the lawsuit by arguing the case was filed too late. This statute of limitations does not apply to every kind of debt.