What Happens if I Ignore a Debt Collector?
If you are on the receiving end of debt collectors’ persistent calls, letters, and emails, then you are not alone. Debt collectors hound debtors to collect the debt, and because they typically get a cut from the collection, they are very motivated to keep hounding the debtors for the payment. However, if you are behind on your bills and your financial situation is not viable to start paying back the debt, you may be tempted to simply ignore the communications from the collector. Unfortunately, ignoring the debt collector will not make the situation go away, but rather could make it worse.
Won’t Know If the Debt Is Legitimate
Knowing your rights is crucial in these scenarios. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), you can request validation of the debt. Many times, debt collectors use abusive practices to try to collect the debt they bought off. Especially in situations where you do not recognize the debt or are unsure if the amount stated is correct, it is important to confront the collector in writing to dispute the debt. If you ignore the collector, the amount will either stay the same or increase with associated interest costs and collector fees.
Debt Stays on Your Record and Damages Your Credit
The longer you wait to pay off debt (or in this case, ignore it all together), your debt will continue to grow. Interest and collection costs rise, making it more difficult to pay off when you eventually decide to face your financial situation. Furthermore, you will earn black marks on your credit report and find yourself with a low credit score. Negative financial behaviors shown on your credit history as delinquent will result in a loss of access to new credit and a reduction in existing credit limits, leading to difficulties in making purchases such as renting an apartment, obtaining a mortgage, or buying a car.
Missed Opportunity to Settle the Debt
If the debt the collectors are attempting to collect is legitimately yours, and your financial situation does not enable you to afford to pay it, then you may have the opportunity to settle the debt for a much lesser amount. However, this mutual beneficial outcome only comes from communicating with the collector, the exact opposite of ignoring them. Read more about the advantages of settling credit cards and debts during times such at the novel coronavirus pandemic here.
Could Get Sued for the Debt
If you continue to ignore the debt collectors’ calls and letters, they will likely file a lawsuit against you in court. Ignoring the debt will not protect your bank account or other assets from the debt. If you continue to ignore the situation after a case is filed, including not filing an answer to the complaint or not showing up to court, the court may issue a default judgement against you in favor of the debt collector. Once this is filed, the debt collection company can file with the court to seize assets such as personal property and garnish your bank account. If this happens, remember that there are three common defenses in a debt collection lawsuit. Nonetheless, there are many others depending on the particular circumstances of each case, so discussing all options and defenses with a consumer protection attorney can be very beneficial.
Stress and Anxiety Levels Will Rise
The disadvantages of ignoring a debt collector continue to build up, and your stress and anxiety levels will rise too. Dodging calls and letters to avoid communication with a collector will surely increase the stress of your financial hardship and add strain to daily life as this situation stays in the back of your mind unresolved.
Even though debt collectors’ calls and letters may cease after a long enough period of ignoring them, the debt will never go away and will only become larger and more difficult to resolve. It’s best to face it and resolve it, especially as sometimes the debt may not even be yours or there is a chance you can settle it for pennies on the dollar. You may want to seek legal advice to help decide which debt relief option is best for your situation and your current financial capabilities. If not, your credit score may take some serious damage, making it hard to take out loans, buy insurance, and other important life purchases.
Dye Culik PC is a consumer financial protection law firm with offices in Boston, Massachusetts and Charlotte, North Carolina. Our attorneys represent consumers in Massachusetts, North Carolina, and federal court against debt collectors in cases under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), as well as defending consumers in debt-collection lawsuits. If you received notice of a lawsuit, were contacted by a debt collector, debt buyer, or credit card company, or even if you just have questions about your rights, contact us to see how we can help.