The Covid-19 pandemic has caused millions of people across the United States to lose their jobs, savings and the ability to pay their debts and obligations. As the economy is beginning to open up, creditors are again, becoming more aggressive in their tactics to get payment, causing more stress on the already beleaguered consumer.

If a credit card company or any other creditor calls about a delinquent account, extracting money is their only goal. They’re trained to use every weapon in their arsenal to get that money. They don’t care what they have to do to get it. They’ll use psychological weapons, threats, coercion or whatever it takes. The best thing you can do is to know your rights.

As the debtor you may feel like your options are limited. The fact of the matter is you have a lot more power than you realize. They’re calling you because you have something they want: Money. That gives you an amazing power over them, so use it to your advantage.

If you don’t have the money right now to pay them, tell them that. Ask what options are available. Do not be surprised if the only option they give you is a check by phone transaction. Whatever you do, don’t authorize one. If you give them electronic access to your checking account, they could potentially clean your account out. Instead, tell them what you’re willing and able to do, and then do it. Send it by mail and pay them with a money order. Do not send a check drawn on your personal checking account because checks are routinely being converted to electronic transactions.

With many Americans in dire financial straits, states are cracking down to make sure aggressive debt collectors target only people who legitimately owe them money. National consumer credit laws already prohibit collection agencies from harassing, deceptive, or unfair practices.

People should pay their debts. However, many states have enacted new legislation that actually requires the debt buyer to produce proof the debt is actually owed. Trying to collect on a debt that a company should reasonably know is invalid could lead to lawsuits and civil penalties.

As a matter of law, once you have hired an attorney, the harassing phone calls must stop. The creditor must now deal only with the attorney, or be in violation of state and federal law. Negotiating will now be done by the attorney, and any settlement will be in writing. If the creditor threatens suit, your attorney will respond appropriately so that all your rights are protected. Be Educated! Be Proactive!