What do you do when you receive collection calls and notices AFTER you filed your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case?

While it is true that a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy case should stop all collection efforts by creditors, it is not uncommon for creditors to continue collection efforts after a bankruptcy case has been filed.  That doesn’t mean that they are right or that there is no relief for you.  It does mean that with a few simple steps, you can make sure that you get the relief that you sought when filing your bankruptcy case.

Collectors often don’t know that you’ve filed bankruptcy

Even with the technological advances that lets creditors constantly monitor bankruptcy filings, several creditors remain unaware that one of their debtors has filed for relief under the Bankruptcy Code.  Several reasons account for that.  Perhaps they don’t have money to buy the software that monitors new bankruptcy cases and have to rely on the Notice to arrive from the bankruptcy court by snail mail.  Maybe the account has changed collection agency hands.  Or, maybe the information they have is inaccurate, incomplete, or a combination of both.  Whatever the reason maybe, clients often seek bankruptcy because they are tired of receiving debt collection calls.  Getting the relief may be easier than you think.  Here is what you need to know.

  1. Even before you file your bankruptcy case, make sure you know who you owe money to.
    You know what?  You are the only one who is going to know everyone you owe money to.  It is true that you can capture many of your creditors from the credit bureaus but you should not rely on your credit report alone.  Monitor the mail you receive and make sure you keep all statements, collection agency letters and notices in a pile to give to your bankruptcy attorney.  Keep track of all calls.  Make an effort, when you can, to answer the debt collection calls.  Inform them that you are filing for bankruptcy protection.  If you have hired an attorney, give the collector your attorney’s name and telephone number.  Keep a notebook near you and jot down the results of the telephone call.  Who did you talk to, where were they calling from, who were they collecting on behalf of, what is their address, telephone number, fax number, what did they say when you said you were filing for bankruptcy, what did they say when you said you hired an attorney.  Do not argue with them.  Just take the information, and convey the message that you are contemplating bankruptcy and the information regarding your attorney.  Jotting the results of the conversation will also be beneficial to you in the event you have to pursue a collector under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).  We will have a blog on that at some point in the near future.  But at present, the point, is, YOU have to make the effort to find out who you owe money to.
  2. Before you come to your lawyer, search your home for statements, collection letters or notices.
    Many clients throw the statements, collection notices and letters when they get them.  Bad idea!  Keep them!  Go through them, sort them, and give them to your lawyer.  Search your home to make sure you collect all the notices you get.  Disclosing the most up-to-date information regarding your creditors is not only your obligation, it is the sure-most way to ensure that you reduce the collection calls you get after your case is filed.  It also narrows down the rogue collectors who refuse to abide by bankruptcy laws or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, in case you decide you want to pursue them.
  3. After you file your bankruptcy, KEEP YOUR CASE NUMBER WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES.
    When a collector calls, most often they will go away if you give them your case number.  But how will you do that if you don’t answer your calls.  So, it is important to not ignore debt collection calls.  You have a duty to notify your creditors that you have filed a case.
  4. After the bankruptcy is filed, continue to monitor your mail and retain the collection notices and letters.
    Compare the collector’s addresses on the notices to those on your bankruptcy papers, and promptly provide your attorney the notices from creditors or collectors who are not in them.  Those collectors have not been notified by the bankruptcy court, and may be continuing collection efforts unaware that you have filed a bankruptcy case.

Remember, it is your bankruptcy case.
You can get relief only if you take an active role in your bankruptcy.  Your bankruptcy attorney can help you only if you provide him or her with the information he or she needs.  And remember, he or she can answer your questions only if you ask those questions.  Each case is unique and your attorney will advise you if you have specific questions.  Keeping a dialogue open is the best way to ensure that your bankruptcy case provides you the relief you sought when you filed it.