Coronavirus and dealing with debt: Tips to help ease the impact


Dealing with debt can be a stressful experience. Coupling that with the coronavirus pandemic may make it even harder to address. As you plan for the potential economic impact of coronavirus, there are a number of steps that you can take to help manage debt in these difficult times.


You can look to your state’s unemployment policies to identify current options for benefits. Your state’s public health office may also have information.


Steps to take if you have trouble paying your bills during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

WARNING:

Be careful to verify that a caller is a legitimate debt collector. There have been reports of scammers acting as a debt collector to defraud consumers.

  • Learn how to tell the difference between a scammer and a real debt collector: visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's website.

Has a debt collector contacted you?

If you currently have a debt in collections, you can work with collectors to identify a realistic repayment plan. There are a number of resources for contacting and negotiating with debt collection companies.


Know your rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) says that a debt collector is not allowed to use unfair practices in trying to collect a debt.

Learn about some examples of "unfair" practices by a debt collector at www.consumerfinance.gov.


You generally cannot have your Social Security or VA benefits garnished, as well as some other benefits, by a creditor or a debt collector. If you believe you do not owe the debt or that it's not even your debt, send a written request to the debt collector and “dispute” the debt. You can also send a written request to the debt collector to receive more information about the debt.


Wondering how to respond to a debt collector?

Below is a list of sample letters to help you at www.conumerfinance.gov:

  • Need more information?

  • Do not owe the debt?

  • Want the debt collector to stop contacting you while you dispute the debt?

  • Want the debt collector to only contact you through a lawyer?

  • Want to specify how the debt collector can contact you?

These letters are not legal advice. Note, you'll also want to keep copies of any letters you send.

WARNING:

If you’re considering working with a debt settlement company to address your debts, remember that companies should not ask for an upfront fee.


Looking to settle your debt?

Debt settlement companies, also sometimes called "debt relief" or "debt adjusting" companies, often claim they can negotiate with your creditors to reduce the amount you owe. Consider all of your options, including working with a nonprofit credit counselor, and negotiating directly with the creditor or debt collector yourself. Before agreeing to work with a debt settlement company, consider the risks you may face.

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