Debt can be depressing enough, but add debt collection to the mix and it can be downright devastating.

Are you being hounded by Harris and Harris debt collectors? Are they calling, emailing, and texting you? Are you unsure about how to respond?

Don’t let debt collectors walk all over you. Use this handy checklist to protect yourself. You have rights. Learn what those rights are and how to respond.

Keep reading to learn your rights and the most effective debt relief options you have at your disposal.

Seven steps to take if you’re hounded by a Harris and Harris debt collector

Step 1 - Verify the debt

Don’t take Harris and Harris's word for granted. Confirm the validity of the debt through a written request. They are obligated to respond.

Why should you verify the debt?

  • Inaccurate details: Debt collectors often purchase overdue loans from creditors. Occasionally, errors are made during the transfer.
  • Identify theft: Unfortunately, identity theft is rampant. Sometimes, thieves use a stolen identity to take out a loan. Years later, after it’s sat unpaid, collectors can come looking for repayment. Ensure Harris and Harris isn’t pursuing you for a loan you didn’t request.
  • Statute of limitations: Verification can help determine if the debt has passed the statute of limitations. This is the maximum period lenders and collectors have to seek legal action to obtain repayment. This period varies from state to state, so know what the law is in your state.
  • Missing paperwork: Verifying the debt ensures Harris and Harris possess the necessary paperwork to pursue collection. Without it, their claim has no merit.

Step 2 - Document the process

The debt collection process can take months, even years. It’s essential to keep detailed records of the case.

For example, when Harris and Harris contacts you, write down the date and time of the call, the representative's name, and the topic of discussion.

No detail is too small to record. The more information you have, the better.

Step 3 - Learn your rights

Under no circumstance can Harris and Harris harass you, falsify information, or engage in any other questionable tactics. Study your rights by familiarizing yourself with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Some of the most important ones include:

  • Debt collectors cannot contact you at inconvenient hours or locations.
  • With few exceptions, debt collectors must honor written directions requesting they cease further communication.
  • They cannot threaten or physically harm debtors.
  • They cannot misrepresent their identity or any facts related to the debt.
  • They cannot threaten legal action they don’t intend to take.

Step 4 - Negotiate

If you’ve confirmed the debt is legitimate, consider negotiating a settlement or payment plan with Harris and Harris. They may agree to settle for less, or to accept smaller monthly payments.

Alternatively, you can hire a debt settlement company to represent you. If you go this route, they’ll deal directly with the debt collector.

If they successfully negotiate a reduced balance, you’ll make recurring deposits to a new account. Once enough money is saved, the debt settlement company will send funds from this account directly to Harris and Harris.

Step 5 - Keep an eye out for lawsuits

In rare instances, debt collectors like Harris and Harris can pursue legal action to gain repayment. Failure to address a lawsuit can result in severe consequences:

  • Default judgment: When you ignore a lawsuit, the most common consequence is a default judgment. It means the court automatically sides with the plaintiff (debt collector) and rules that the defendant (the debtor) pay back the owed amount.
  • Wage garnishment: A judge may order that a portion of the debtor’s paycheck be sent directly to the collector until repayment is complete.
  • Bank account levies: A judge may grant the debt collector permission to levy (i.e., take) money directly from the debtor’s bank account.
  • Bank account levies: A judge may grant the debt collector permission to levy (i.e., take) money directly from the debtor’s bank account.

Step 6 - Review your credit report

Request a copy of your credit report from the three major bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Once received, thoroughly review the information for errors.

You’re looking for any mistakes related to the debt in question. Look for incorrect amounts, interest rates, classifications, or dates.

Step 7 - Consult with a lawyer

Consulting with an attorney who specializes in consumer debt can provide a host of benefits.

  • Access to legal expertise
  • The benefit of an experienced negotiator on your side
  • A specialist who can help protect your rights
  • Should it be required, they can represent you in court
  • Perhaps most important, working with an attorney can provide peace of mind

Debt relief solutions

Responding to Harris and Harris is only the start. As long as you have debt, there’s work to be done. Luckily, you have multiple options to choose from.

  • Debt consolidation: Debt consolidation entails taking out a new loan to pay off existing debts. By reducing the number of payments, debt management is simplified. The new loan typically carries a lower interest rate than the existing obligations, so you save money and can pay the debt off sooner.
  • Debt settlement: This approach involves negotiating a lower amount with the debt collector or creditor. You can even use the services of a debt settlement company to negotiate on your behalf. If you go that route, the debt settlement company will also facilitate loan repayment. The downside is debt settlement can negatively impact your credit score for several years.
  • Balance transfer cards: Transferring the balances from high-interest credit cards to a new card at a lower rate can be an effective debt reduction strategy. Sometimes it’s even possible to find credit card issuers offering 0% introductory rates for the first 12 months.
  • Credit counseling: Credit counseling agencies provide various services, like helping create a budget, providing financial education, or offering Debt Management Plans (DMPs). DMPs are another way to consolidate existing debt. With a DMP, the debtor pays the agency a single monthly amount. The agency then disperses the funds to the creditors.
  • Home equity loans or home equity line of credit (HELOC): While it doesn’t always make sense, in some situations, it can be wise to borrow from the equity in your home to pay off other, higher interest rate debts. Although effective, it’s also risky. Using your home as collateral places it at risk should you default on the payments.
  • Bankruptcy: Sometimes, bankruptcy is warranted. While it shouldn’t be pursued without careful consideration, it can be the best option for some debtors.