If you are one of the millions of people that have gotten behind in payments to debtors, then chances are good you will be at some point, dealing with debt collectors.
Despite laws that have been put in place to help protect consumers from being harassed and sometimes barraged by debt collectors on the phone, and at places of work – many debt collectors can still be intimidating, and excessively forceful when dealing with clients. Luckily, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you to deal with them effectively so you can work towards the best outcome for you, and for the organization that you owe money to.
The first piece of advice is that no matter how badly you want to avoid answering your phone – do not ignore debt collectors. This will only make their means of trying to contact you more aggressive. The best thing to do is answer the phone and listen to what they have to say. Keep in mind, that many debt collectors today are required to record phone conversations to ensure that no laws are being broken. If this is the case – then they need to divulge the information at the onset of the phone call.
The next step, is to listen. Listen to what they have to say. Have a pen and paper readily available so that you can write down everything that they say to you. Get your file number, and make sure that you have all the information that YOU need, to deal with the debt effectively. You should also ask to see all the information in writing. Often times, depending where you are in the debt collection process, many collection agencies will add on hundreds of dollars worth of fees, called processing fees – that are added to your original debt. And these fees are regulated by law, and can often be disputed. Once you have been contact by a debt collector, they have 5 days to send you out a written explanation of the debt. At this point, YOU have 30 days to file any dispute with the collection agency that may be necessary. If you want to refuse the debt, or if you think the monetary amounts are wrong – you have 30 days to file a dispute.
Any attorney will also tell you that any communication you send to a debt collector should be handled by certified mail. Remember that the people on the other end of the phone normally earn a commission based on what they can collect from people and how quickly. So of course, they are going to pushy. And often, they stretch the truth. Just because someone told you that you would be credited money, or that you could extend the date of repayment – means nothing unless you have it in writing, and unless you send your information certified, return receipt requested mail.
Another important tip when dealing with debt collectors is to not bend the truth. Don’t tell them that you can make a certain payment, when you know the reality is that you cannot. Be honest. They have many, many options available for people that are having financial problems. They will always start out with the most beneficial method FOR THEM. But if you cannot meet the arrangement, be honest and forthright. Otherwise, the circle of phone calls will only continue.
Another important aspect of dealing with debt collectors is to keep copies of phone records, the names of people you talked to, and all the information that they have mailed you. Take names and numbers of every person you speak to. Chances are the collection agency is just a ‘call mill’ which means that you may likely speak to many different people in the course of the collection process. Keep all correspondence, and make sure that your paper trail is thorough. Also, if they advised you that they call will be recorded, remember that you have a right to that recorded call at a later date.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act passed in the interest of protecting consumers, also says the following about the kinds of restrictions that debt collectors face. In fact, this bullet list shows you the things that collection agencies cannot do or say. If these occur, then you can take legal action on your end.
- Using abusive or obscene language.
- Harassing you with repeated calls.
- Calling before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. unless you agree.
- Calling you at work if you have asked them to stop.
- Talking to anyone but you or your attorney about the debt.
- Misrepresenting the amount of your debt.
- Falsely claiming to be an attorney or a law enforcement official.
- Falsely claiming to be a credit bureau representative.
- Threatening to sue unless they actually plan to take legal action.
- Threatening to garnish wages or seize property unless they actually intend to do it
Despite these laws, collection agencies will STILL use these tactics to try and bully you into repaying the debt or locking yourself into a situation that may not work well for you.
One of the most important things to remember when talking to debt collectors is that you should say as little as possible. They are essentially interrogating you! Before you agree to anything, make sure that they are willing to send you all the details in writing! If they try and push you really hard to make a decision right off the bat, without discussing it with others – then you should stand firm and take a back seat for a moment so you can gather your facts and make sure they are working in your best interests!