Debt collection calls are something none of us ever want to experience, and quite frankly, in our world awash with phishing, scams and fraud, it’s important to make sure that debt collection claims is also legitimate. Fake collectors will demand payment for a debt you don’t owe – perhaps convincing you that someone has accrued that debt on your behalf. However, according to the Collection Bureau of America, about 28% of Americans have at least one collection debt, whether it’s credit card debt, student loans or medical bills.
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Debt collection is tricky. It is the job of a collection agent to recover services rendered. So while they can sometimes seem extremely persistent, which can be intimidating, it’s also important to understand that they’re not here to make your life difficult. However, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) states that they cannot harass, oppress, abuse or deceive anyone they contact. So if you think you are being treated unfairly, you have every right to report it. If you know your rights, you will feel more comfortable answering these calls when the situation arises.
Below are the do’s and don’ts of debt collection:
Don’t ignore it: Collection agents have a job to do. They may contact you by phone, email, mail, or even contact you on social media. While our instinct may be to ignore their attempts to get in touch, that won’t make them or the situation go away, and they might take legal action against you in court. It is therefore better to take care of it and find a solution.
Do not be disagreeable or combative: Collection agents actually want to help you pay for goods purchased or services rendered. Work with them to find a reasonable solution for both parties. Whether it’s an agreed lower amount or a payment plan, they’re usually willing to work with you to some degree. It is important to keep a cool head and a pleasant attitude. Again, they are just doing their job.
Keep a record: It is important to keep a log of all the information and conversations you have with debt collectors. Write down or record the date, time, company name, address, phone number and name of the person you spoke with as well as the amount you are expected to owe and the name of the creditor . This will help keep track of how often they call as well as conversations or exchanges.
Try setting: Collection agents often have the ability to negotiate or settle debts. This means they can take less than the amount owed, if you agree to pay upfront. They realize that many debts will and will not be paid, so if they can get even anything, they are satisfied. If they don’t settle, they should at least be able to set up a payment plan.
Request copies of original documents: When a collection agent contacts you, ask for documentation of the original invoices. This request must be in writing. There may be charges that have accrued as a result of late payment, so be sure to ask for an itemized statement of what is being held, including any additional interest, late fees, or collection charges .
If you receive a call from a debt collector, it is essential to know your rights. Get as much information as possible and record everything. Knowing these simple steps will ensure your privacy and security. If in doubt about the process or if you think the debt collector has violated your rights, contact a lawyer. For more information visit: ftc.gov/debtcollection.
Author: Ben Branson is a senior member of The Cavanagh Law Firm. His practice focuses on complex civil litigation, including corporate litigation, real estate litigation, insurance defense and creditors’ rights.