Debt collection calls are something none of us ever want to experience, and quite frankly, in our world inundated with phishing, scams and frauds, it’s important to make sure the debt collection is also in fact legitimate. Fake collectors will demand payment for a debt you don’t owe – perhaps convincing you that someone has accumulated this debt in your name. However, according to Collection Bureau of America, approximately 28% of Americans have a least one debt in collections whether it’s credit card debt, student loans or medical bills.
READ ALSO: Here’s how study shows debt affects relationship quality
Debt collection is tricky. It’s a debt collectors’ job to collect on services rendered. So, while at times they may seem extremely persistent, which can be intimidating, it’s also important to understand that they are not out to make your life difficult. However, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) states that they can’t harass, oppress, abuse or deceive anyone they contact. So, if you believe that you are being treated unfairly, you have every right to report it. If you know your rights, you’ll feel more comfortable dealing with these calls when the situation arises.
Below are the Dos and Don’ts of debt collection:
Don’t Ignore It: Debt collectors have a job to do. They can reach out to you via phone, email, a letter or even contact you on social media. While our instinct may be to ignore their attempts at making contact, it will not make them or the situation go away, and they may file a lawsuit against you in court. So, it’s better to address it and find a solution.
Don’t Be Unpleasant or Combative: Debt collectors actually do want to help you make good on any goods purchased or services rendered. Work with them to come up with a reasonable solution for both parties. Whether that may be a lower agreed upon amount owed or a payment plan, they are generally willing to work with you in some capacity. It’s important to maintain a level head and pleasant demeanor. Again, they are just doing their job.
Do Keep a Record: It’s important to keep a log of any information and conversations you have with debt collectors. Write down or record the date, time, company name, address, phone number and the individuals name that you spoke with as well as the amount you allegedly owe and the name of the creditor. Doing this will help keep track of how often they call as well as any conversations or exchanges.
Do Try Settling: Debt collectors often have the ability to negotiate or settle debts. That means that they may take less than the amount owed, if you agree to pay upfront. They realize that many debts will and do go unpaid so if they can get even something, they are satisfied. If they won’t settle, they should be able to at least set up a payment plan.
Ask for Copies of Original Paperwork: When a debt collector contacts you, request documentation of the original invoices. This request must be in writing. There may be fees that have accumulated as a result of late payment so make sure to request an itemized statement of what is owned, including any additional interest, late fees or collection fees.
If you get a call from a debt collector, knowing your rights is critical. Get as much information as possible and record everything. Knowing these few simple steps will ensure your privacy and safety. If ever in doubt about the process or if you feel that the debt collector has violated your rights, contact an attorney. 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 creditor’s rights.