About 28 percent of New Jerseyans have a debt in collections

About 28 percent of New Jerseyans have a debt in collections, with many victims of creditor harassment.

Many people throughout New Jersey are struggling with debt and are receiving calls from collection agencies. As the Asbury Park Press reports, data from the Urban Institute shows that approximately 28 percent of all New Jerseyans have a delinquent debt that has gone to collections. In other words, debt collectors have contacted or tried to contact more than a quarter of residents in the state. Those who have a debt in collections should be aware of creditor harassment and how to fight back against it.

Delinquent debt in New Jersey

The 28 percent of New Jerseyans who have been contacted by creditors have a median delinquent debt of $1,114. Amazingly, New Jersey residents are actually struggling less with debt than the country as a whole is. Nationwide, more than a third of Americans have a debt in collections with a median delinquent debt of $1,450.

Medical debt, which can be both large and unexpected, is one of the biggest causes of the high delinquency rate. In New Jersey, about 15 percent of residents have a medical debt in collections, which is slightly better than the nationwide average of 18 percent.

However, when it comes to debt in New Jersey, some counties are experiencing especially high rates of delinquency. In both Cumberland and Essex Counties, for example, more than 40 percent of residents have a debt in collections and more than 20 percent in each of those counties have a medical debt in collections.

Defending against creditor harassment

The high rate of debt delinquency means that many New Jerseyans will have received calls from collection agencies. Unfortunately, while creditor harassment is illegal, many debt collectors engage in it anyway. As Time reports, a survey released last year by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a federal agency, found that harassment by debt collectors is widespread.

For example, the CFPB survey found that about 75 percent of consumers who asked collectors to stop calling them nonetheless continued to receive calls (debt collectors are supposed to stop calling if told in writing to do so). Furthermore, about 40 percent of consumers said they had received four or more calls in a single week from a debt collector, which would constitute a form of harassment. A third of respondents also said they had received calls outside of the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Unless given permission by a debtor to do otherwise, debt collectors are only allowed to call between those hours.

Getting out of debt

Drowning in debt can feel like a never ending nightmare. Sky-high interest rates, stacks of bills, and endless phone calls from debt collectors can leave one feeling overwhelmed. Fortunately, help is available. A bankruptcy attorney can show those who are struggling with debt how to put a stop to harassing phone calls and how bankruptcy or other relief measures may be able to help get clients out of debt faster.