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Are your bills piling up? Are you getting past-due notices and calls from collections agencies? If you cannot afford to pay your debts, then your creditors (the companies to which you owe money) will take legal steps to collect what they are owed. But even if you owe money to creditors, you still have legal rights. With the help of a collections attorney, you can enforce those rights and find a way to get the creditors off your back!
How Creditors Collect Unpaid Debts
Once a bill becomes past-due, creditors will take several actions to try to collect their money. These include:
- Adding interest, fines and late-payment fees to your outstanding balance in an effort to discourage you from falling further behind
- Send you a late-payment notice
- Call you directly or have a collection agency call you
- If the creditor is a utility or service provider, stop providing services to you
- File a lien, or legal claim, against your property, preventing you from selling the property until the debt is repaid
- If the creditor is a lender, repossess the property that secures your loan. This would include seizing your car, boat or motorcycle, or foreclosing on your home.
- Reporting the past-due amount to the credit reporting agencies
- Obtaining a legal judgment against you and garnish, or seize, your wages to satisfy the debt
Your Rights as a Debtor
There's a lot that a creditor can do to try to collect an unpaid debt. But you still have legal rights.
For example, you can tell a collection agency to stop contacting you by phone or in writing. You can also dispute the amount that owe, forcing the collection agency to stop collections efforts until it can provide proof of your debts.
Additionally, some of your assets can't be seized to pay your debts. For example, your Social Security income can't be seized to pay a consumer debt. And if you file for consumer bankruptcy you may be entitled to keep certain assets.
Your collections lawyer can help enforce your legal rights, negotiate with creditors on your behalf, attempt to get your debt reduced and help you decide whether you're a viable candidate for personal bankruptcy.
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