Have you been affected by debt collection? If so, you’re not alone. In 2017, over 71 million Americans had a credit card, auto, student loan, or medical debt in collection. Unrelenting calls and contact from debt collectors can be frightening and add to the stress of consumers already attempting to deal with problems related to their debts. However, it doesn’t have to be that way! You can take steps to mitigate the impact debt collectors have on your daily life, so you can focus instead on getting your finances in order. Here are three great tips for how to deal with those nasty debt collectors.
Know Your Rights
Speaking to a debt collector over the telephone can be intimidating. However, laws exist to regulate when and how debt collectors can contact consumers; make sure you understand what your rights are when debt collectors start contacting you. For example, debt collection agencies cannot:
- Use obscene, harassing, or threatening language when they speak to you
- Contact a third person or other party related to your debt, except to get your contact information
- Call you on the phone before 8 am in the morning or after 9 pm in the evening
- Lie about the total amount of money you owe, or use deceptive methods to attempt collection
Additionally, debt collectors cannot engage in unfair business practices, such as seizing your property outside of legal proceedings or collecting interest and penalty fees on top of what you owe. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FCDPA) spells out borrowers’ rights, so if debt collectors are contacting you, make sure you become familiar with it and the rights that it ensures.
Keep Good Records
Start keeping thorough records once a debt collector contacts you. Your record of interactions with a debt collection agency is important. If you have a dispute about the amount you owe or the amount you’ve paid, those records could become crucial later on, especially if the debt collection agency or you decide to take legal action. Your records could also be helpful if you believe that the debt collector has engaged in unfair or illegal business practices.
Keep a notebook or computer file that summarizes every interaction you have with a debt collection agency. Demand that the agency provide you a written summary of the debt it’s collecting. Save all the emails that you send to and receive from the debt collectors as well. If you have to send any documents to a debt collector, such as statements or a payment, ensure you use some sort of delivery certification when you do so. If the debt collection agency denies receiving the documents, you’ll have a paper trail on hand and be ready to dispute the claims. Finally, you may want to consider recording your conversations with any debt collector on the phone; this may help assure that you have a physical record of what the debt collector said and how he or she acted. However, several states have laws requiring the consent of all parties prior to recording conversations, so ensure you know the legalities of recording before deciding to do so.
Stand Your Ground
While you should take a call from a debt collection agency seriously, you shouldn’t let debt collectors intimidate you. When talking on the phone with a collector, it’s always best to be polite, firm, and brief. Have the debt collector provide you the exact information on the debt it’s collecting. You should know the amount of the debt, as well as what it’s for when it’s due, and where to send payment, if necessary. You should also ask the debt collector the best way to get in contact with the agency by phone and email and ask for a written copy of the bill you owed on the debt. If you’re curt and cordial, you can minimize opportunities for the debt collector to intimidate you and keep your stress at a manageable level.
If you believe that the debt collector is wrong about the amount you owe, you should be prepared to stand firm. Collect all your records and send the debt collection agency a letter (via certified mail) disputing the claim, with the records of your prior payment enclosed. Be prepared for an iterative, bureaucratic process with the agency prior to it informing you that it was incorrect. Again, being firm and respectful with the debt collectors you’re in contact with will be extremely helpful throughout this process.
Get Some Help with Your Debt!
Dealing with debt collectors doesn’t have to be stressful or nasty. If you follow the tips here, you’ll be able to keep your interactions with debt collection agencies at a professional level. Additionally, when debt collectors start contacting you, you should also consider getting some help to deal with your overall debt situation. The professionals at National Debt Relief can help you deal with all your creditors more effectively than you could ever do alone. In fact, in many cases, our debt settlement services can help keep debt collectors from ever contacting you in the first place!