After bankruptcy some filers end up victims of unscrupulous creditors who try to get payment for debts that were discharged. Often these debts reappear on your credit report as delinquent accounts, preventing you from accessing credit, housing and employment. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself from these phantom debts and creditor harassment post-bankruptcy:
- Check your credit report for accuracy. When your bankruptcy case is filed all included creditors are notified. They have 45 days after the bankruptcy is discharged to report it to the national credit bureaus. Once a debt has been discharged in bankruptcy the account status changes to “included in bankruptcy” and the account balance changes to zero on your credit report. If a debt that was included in your bankruptcy has not been changed on your credit report it will continue to harm your credit score and prevent you from rebuilding you credit.
- Fight back. If you find an inaccurately reported debt on your credit report or if you start getting harassed by a creditor for a debt that was included in your bankruptcy, you should immediately contact your bankruptcy attorney. Your attorney can then report the creditor to the bankruptcy court. If it’s found that the creditor has violated the bankruptcy discharge, they could be sanctioned and be forced to award you monetary damages
- Monitor your credit report. Keep close tabs on your credit reports in the years after bankruptcy. Some creditors will wait months or years before attempting to sneak discharged debts back into your life. As you rebuild your credit and take on new debts, keep an accounting of who you’re doing business with. If you find creditors and debts you have no record of, act quickly. Immediately notify the credit bureau of the error and demand that they remove the inaccurate credit item. And don’t be afraid to get help. Credit monitoring, especially the type that will protect you from phantom debts, can be very time consuming. It may be worth checking into a credit monitoring service to ensure you don’t miss any changes in your credit report. .
- Don’t pay. If you’re being harassed by a creditor to pay debts that were discharged in bankruptcy, do not pay no matter what threats they send your way. Remember, your bankruptcy discharge is legally binding, creditors cannot choose to violate it without penalty, even third-party bill collectors. Calmly inform the creditor that the debt was discharged in bankruptcy, and get their contact information. Share the creditor’s information with your bankruptcy attorney so that they can handle the violation.
Remember, you are not obligated to repay any debt that was discharged in bankruptcy. If you need help, contact your attorney to help you with the process.