You have recently fallen behind on one or more of your credit accounts. Now your account has been sold to a debt collector. You start getting bombarded with phone calls, text messages, emails and letters. You get to a point where you put your phone on Do Not Disturb during the day, so you don’t always have to hit ‘decline’ every time an unknown caller calls you.
For example, you go on Google to search for help on what to do, and “how to handle these debt collectors”. You feel like you are being spun in circles with all of the contradicting information out there. Don’t worry, this article will help you navigate those uncomfortable conversations with debt collectors.
This article explains:
- 5 things to say when you are speaking with a debt collector
- 5 things not to say when you are speaking with a debt collector
- How to navigate conversations with a debt collector
5 Things NOT To Say Or Do
- Do not acknowledge that you owe the debt (this could reset the statute of limitations). Even if you recognize it. You will want to verify that the debt is yours and that the amount owed is correct before acknowledging it.
- Do not provide them with any income information. Or any information regarding your financial situation.
- If they ask for payment information, do not provide it until you have had time to look at all the documentation and you come to an agreement on payment.
- Some debt collectors may try to provoke you or make you angry. Do your best to stay calm. Keep a record of everything they say to you. You can end the call if they are making you uncomfortable.
- Do not make any payments, even a good faith payment until you understand what you are getting into.
When a debt collector calls you it is a good rule of thumb to not acknowledge the debt. Acknowledging the debt (even if you believe that you owe it). This can reset the statute of limitations of the time frame for which you are legally able to be sued by the creditor. You can check with your state Attorney General’s Office for the statute of limitations regarding debt collection.
What They Are Going To Ask You
Debt collectors may try to get information on your assets, such as home or other property value. They may do this to try to strengthen their case in the off chance that they may sue you in an attempt to get a garnishment or bank account levy. Secondly, providing debt collectors with banking information could be interpreted as you authorizing them to debit your account for the amount owed, and as you taking responsibility for the debt.
Understand Your Rights
A debt collector may try to make you angry, legally they cannot provoke, taunt or harass you. If the person you are speaking to is doing something that would constitute as provoking, taunting, threatening, or harassing, do your best to stay calm and end the phone call. After you end the phone call document all of the details about the call including the time/date, name of the person you spoke with, and what they said to you. You have a couple options here, you can either file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) of you can contact the Attorney General’s Office of your state and inform them of what is happening and they may assist you.
In my experience, when a debt collector has called me and I happen to answer they usually tried to get me to make a ‘good faith payment’. I would highly recommend not making a good faith payment until you have had an opportunity to verify that the debt amount is valid, and that they debt is yours. Making a good faith payment may also make it less likely that the creditor will settle the account for less than what you owe down the road.
5 Things To Say Or Do
- When a debt collector calls you, ask them for their name and employee identification number (if they have one).
- Ask the representative to mail you the information they have about the debt to you (balance information, last payment date, original creditor, when the account was opened, how you can dispute it if you believe you do not owe the money). They may ask you to verify your address, this is okay to do.
- Let the representative know that you understand your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
- You can tell the debt collector to stop calling you. You have to do it in writing, you can find an example of what that letter would look like here.
- If the debt collector is calling you at work, let them know you are not allowed to take these types of calls at work. They are not allowed to call you at work after you tell them to stop.
It is very important that you document all of the interactions you have with the debt collectors. You will want to have everything documented to ensure that you can remain protected under Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. It will also be helpful to have everything documented incase the creditor decides to sue you. If you can prove that they violated your rights, you may be entitled to financial compensation up to $1000.00 plus legal fees.
You will want to verify the debt the collection agency says that you owe. By requesting that they mail you all the information you will be able to verify the information and make sure you actually owe the money. You can reach out to the original creditor to verify any balance information to make sure the collection agency did not tack on illegal interest and fees. The collection agency has to prove that you owe the debt, after recieving the information and you still think you do not owe it, you can send them a debt validation letter.
If you are starting to get collection calls or have been for sometime – I highly suggest going over to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) website and read through your rights. This will help you protect yourself from abuse, and it will also force the creditors to play fair out of fear of being reported for abusive practices.
At any point in the debt collection process you can request that a creditor stop calling you. You have to submit in writing, and they will send you a response letting you know that they received your request. Make sure you keep a dated copy of your letter that you sent to them. You can find sample letters on the FDCPA’s website for a variety of topics that involve communications with creditors.
Being in debt and having accounts in collections can be extremely stressful, at times it can feel like there is no way out and you will be stuck in it forever. You always have options. At Ascend, our mission is to help you get out of debt easier, cheaper and faster. When navigating the complexities of debt management it can be helpful to speak with someone who knows how debt collection works and with someone who has your best interest at heart. Contact us today and we can work through your situation together.