One of the most desperately difficult things to deal with for most people is a Debt Collector and most people do not know where to turn to for help. It just isn’t something that we are taught to handle when we are growing up, mainly because nobody plans to be in that situation.
Debt Collectors will lie to you and use any form of underhand tactics that they can to bully you into paying. Dubbed “Merchants of Misery” in the news papers, Debt Collection is one of the UK’s fastest growing industries, with agencies pursuing over 20 million cases a year. Many have been know to resort to underhand and violet tactics to achieve their ends.
“More than eight million Britons are in serious debt – a quarter of whom are struggling to make their repayments. Major lenders are taking legal action against people’s assets, according to evidence from the Credit Management Research Centre at the University of Leeds, which warns that people’s homes are also at risk.” according to the Independent on Sunday.
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) warned of a “growing number of consumers experiencing debt-repayment problems” and the number of repossessions and bankruptcies have risen massively in recent months, thus fuelling the growth in Debt Collection Agencies.
There are many reasons why someone may be unable to pay a debt, especially in the turbulent economic times we are in. It could be that they have been a very good credit risk for many years, but suddenly suffered a catastrophic change in circumstances. Unfortunately the Debt Collectors are not paid to care about why they are chasing and harassing you.
Some of the reasons for falling behind with payments include:
* Being laid off from work
* Injury that results in reduction in income
* Failing to provide a forwarding address
* Mistaken identity
The biggest problem most people face is that they do not know their rights and the limitations of the debt collector. It is important to know when a debt collector is lying and what they can and cannot do.
Threats a Debt Collector may make:
1. We will visit your home.
Under Common Law you have the right to refuse access to your property to anyone that does not possess a warrant or court order.
You must write to the Debt Collector and specifically inform them that they are not permitted to visit your property without an appointment and that you have no intension of making an appointment with them. Further state that if they seek to visit your property despite your refusal to make an appointment they will be committing a ‘Tort of Trespass’. Also that you will deem the visit as an act of harassment as defined by the Protection From Harassment Act 1997.
2. We will report you to the Credit Reference Agencies.
Debt Collectors cannot report you to the credit reference agencies, only a Bank with whom you have a valid Credit Agreement may lodge a report against you.
Threats of any kind that cause you distress are harassment, nobody has any right to make threats against you with the aim of extorting money from you.
3. We will seize your belongings.
No one can seize your belongings other than a licensed Bailiff with a Warrant.
1. Sending a letter your neighbours to put pressure on you to pay.
This does happen and is completely against the rules laid down by Trading Standards. If this should happen inform your local Trading Standards Officer and The Office of Fair trading.
2. Telephoning repeatedly 7 days a week up to 5 times a day from early in the morning until late in the evening.
This is the most common form of harassment that the debt collector uses to put pressure on you.
Write to the debt collector and state that third parties have no authority in this matter and that you are dealing with the Bank/Company/Council (creditor) directly. Inform them that you regard their persistent telephone calls as distressing and harassment as defined by the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Inform them that you will report them to the local Trading Standards Officer, The Office of Fair Trading and OFCOM if they do not desist. Remind them that this could result in their license being revoked (which would effectively put them out of business).
3. Sending letters that appear to have come from the court.
This is a common tactic and one that is usually easy to spot. They would be breaking the law if they were to send forms that are identical to official court documents, so you will usually see that they say “Intent to Commence Proceedings” or “Notice of Intent”. Treat these letters much like any other.
The thing to remember is that a Debt Collector has very little in the way of rights to take any physical action against you. However, this is not true of Bailiffs who have increasingly been given wider powers to use force to seize goods or extort money.
There have been a number of cases where Bailiffs have used physical violence to enter a persons home with the intent to extort money and if the innocent member of the public tries to defend them self, or calls the police the victim could be arrested for assault or a breach of the peace.
If you are being harassed by debt collectors, seek professional help. The Citizens Advice Bureau are a really good first point of contact. The best option is to seek help long before the case is passed to a debt collector, so that you have the backup you need to prevent the situation getting out of hand. Act early to get help and the debt collector need never be a problem.