If you have a credit card, student loan, or other debt that was sent to collections, you’re probably getting lots of phone calls and messages from debt collection agencies. It’s an irritating and stressful situation. So what happens if you ignore debt collectors completely?
While you might find temporary relief, ignoring debt collectors is essentially putting your head in the sand. Your debt problem won’t go away. In fact, it could get a lot worse. So here’s what you should know about the consequences of ignoring debt collectors — and how to handle the situation properly.
What Happens if You Ignore Debt Collectors?
Unfortunately, ignoring debt collectors won’t make them give up and stop calling you. On the contrary, they’ll start using more aggressive means of collecting what you owe. Plus, the longer you put off a debt problem, the more difficult it may be to work out a solution.
The good news: You can significantly reduce the amount of calls and messages you get by taking certain steps.
How to Stop Calls From Debt Collectors
You can request that debt collectors stop contacting you and your family. To do so, send a letter to the debt collector and keep a copy for your records. You can also request that they communicate with you through your lawyer only.
Once the debt collector receives this letter, they cannot contact you again, except to let you know there will be no further contact and that they or the original creditor may take other actions they are legally allowed to take (including filing a lawsuit against you). If the debt collector continues calling, they may be violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
If you think your rights were violated, you can report a debt collector to the following organizations:
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
- Your state attorney general’s office
Even if you send this letter, it doesn’t mean you should ignore your debt. Here are some of the consequences you could face by failing to respond when a debt collector contacts you.
Your credit score will drop
Your credit score is made up of several factors, the biggest one being ‘payment history’ at 35%. Missing just one payment could ding your score quite a bit. And if you keep ignoring the debt collection agencies collection attempts, they will continue reporting your account as delinquent to the credit bureaus. At some point, the account might be sent to legal collections, which could cause your score to fall even more.
The level of damage to your score depends on what condition your credit was in before the account went to collections. Someone with a score in the 700s, for instance, could lose 100+ points from a single delinquent account that is sent to collections. On the other hand, someone who already has poor credit (a score of 579 or less) might see a smaller drop in their score. Either way, that negative entry will stay on your credit report for seven years.
Why does this matter? A good credit score is needed if you want to borrow money at a low cost. But it also helps you rent an apartment, sign up for utility accounts, get low rates on insurance, and more. So ignoring debt collector calls and the damage to your credit score will make it difficult to get by without paying more for goods and services.
The amount you owe might increase
When your debt continues to go unpaid, it may continue racking up interest and late charges. Plus, you might be charged late fees that get tacked onto the balance. Ignoring debt collectors won’t stop that from happening.
If you ignore debts while they accumulate interest, the amount you owe will grow over time. So by the time you decide to do something about your debt, you could end up with a much larger balance than when you started.
Collectors will continue harassing you and your family
The job of a debt collector is to convince you to repay your outstanding debt. So they will contact you by any means available, including phone calls, letters, emails, text messages, and even social media messages. Many work on commission, so they are incentivized to continue contacting you to get you to pay. Ignoring these communications will likely prompt debt collectors to reach out to your family members to try and figure out your location. Unless you request in writing that the agency stop contacting you, ignoring these messages won’t make them stop.
It is important to note that there are debt collection laws that dictate when and how collectors can contact you. For example, a debt collector can’t call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. without permission to do so. They also can’t contact you at work if you tell them you’re not supposed to accept phone calls there. The debt collection laws are based on federal law under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, as well as state and local debt collection laws.
They might sue you
Although you can’t be arrested for unpaid debt, you can be sued. And the longer you ignore debt collectors, the more likely it is that they will file a lawsuit against you to collect the debt you owe.
If the court enters a judgment against you, this means that you lost the case and the debt collector can then take additional steps to collect the amount owed. Note that post-judgment collection can include:
- Wage garnishment
- Freezing your bank accounts
- Placing a lien on your real or personal property
Generally, debt collectors have around three to six years to file a lawsuit to collect money owed. This period is known as the statute of limitations, and it varies by state and type of debt. Once the statute of limitations has passed, the old debt becomes time-barred and you can no longer be sued for it (but you are still obligated to pay it).
There are ways to avoid a judgment; the most basic method is to respond to court papers by yourself or by hiring effective legal representation with an attorney who handles debt resolution and debt relief.
How to Respond to Debt Collectors the Right Way
As you can see, ignoring debt collection efforts has no benefit. That’s especially true if you’ve been sued; failing to respond to a lawsuit results in a default judgment against you. Even if you don’t think you owe the debt in question, it’s important to respond to a lawsuit before the deadline. If you miss the deadline and receive a judgment, you will have no relief — even if you have a valid defense.
Whether or not you’re facing a lawsuit, if you’re getting numerous debt collection calls, it’s a good idea to have an experienced debt relief lawyer on your side. They can provide important legal advice and help you verify whether you really owe the debt, the amount is correct, the statute of limitations hasn’t passed, and more. They can also help negotiate a resolution with the debt collector.
Get Help With Debt Collectors
If you’re being contacted by debt collectors, don’t wait to take action. Tayne Law Group has been assisting clients with their debts for more than two decades. We can help you understand your rights with debt collectors and come up with a solution that gets debt collectors off your back once and for all. We offer a free, no-obligation phone consultation to learn more about how we can assist. So give us a call at (866) 890-7337 or fill out our short contact form. We never sell or share your information and will always keep your matter confidential.