Tricks Debt Collectors Use

It shouldn’t be surprising that Debt Collectors are never depicted well in movies or TV shows. We know that they are not charitable folk who care about your new baby or your four year old who broke his arm. Neither do they lose a moment’s sleep because you have been made redundant or have been hit by a major illness. In fact, they are quite the contrary and will use all of these factors against you in order to try and squeeze you for every penny they can.

So, that being said, it will come as no surprise to you that debt collectors are not going to pursue their dispute in a direct and straightforward manner. These are not honorable people. They will hunt payment for debt like a hawk that cleverly stalks its prey, waiting for the right moment to sneak an attack.

Are you prepared for an attack? It can help to predict some of your predator’s tactics before he attempts his sneak attack. So don’t wave your flag of surrender just yet. Gain an insight into a debt collector’s ploys and tricks and you will have a chance at escaping their snares.


The Not-so-Fine line between Communication and Harassment

It starts with one phone call and before you know it the phone is ringing off the hook with persistent calls from debt collectors. Once they know that this is your telephone number, they will not give up. What are they hoping to achieve? They hope that each phone call, letter, email, fax and SMS erodes a little bit of your resolve. Little by little you lose morale, you become irritated, frustrated and, they hope, eventually so exasperated that you will give in to their demands.

Some debt collectors will try the friendly approach, calling you ‘pal’ and using your first name as if they are a long lost friend trying to do you a favor. Others will berate you, belittle your status, and question everything you stand for. They want you to be so overwhelmed by guilt, intimidation and fear that you will do anything to make them stop and to protect your loved ones.

However, being in debt doesn’t mean that you relinquish all human rights and thankfully there are laws against this kind of harassment. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act protects consumers from this type of harassment. The FDCPA (15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 to 1692p) obliges that debt collectors make certain disclosures and prohibits the collecting agency from engaging in many kinds of abusive or deceptive behavior.

The collection agency will most certainly be in breach of this law if you have requested, by letter, that they cease all forms of communication, unless in writing, with you or your family, friends or acquaintances.

The Defendant’s Package contains more details regarding how you might include this as one of your affirmative defenses in a credit card lawsuit.


Pursuing Family and Friends

You may wonder why you even need to request that the debt collectors cease communication with your family and friends. This is just another trick of their trade. If the collection agency cannot reach you or get information from you, the agency will not hesitate to pursue your nearest and dearest. Make your friends and family aware that you don’t want to be found and not to give out any information about you.

They may even target your children. If they discover where your child goes to school, they may attempt to extract information such as your address or where you work. It might be a good idea to gently re-emphasize to your children your rules regarding talking to strangers and giving out personal information.


Obtaining Information

With the above points in mind, it would be understandable if you were asking yourself ‘Well, how would they ever find my child’s school or my father’s golf club? I’m not going to give them that information!’ And it’s true – you wouldn’t intentionally supply that information to anyone, let alone debt collection wolves. At the same time, just think about the amount of information you share with your ‘friends’ on social networking sites or in forums. A recent survey showed that around 44% of people admit that there are details of their employer available on the internet. 30% admit to revealing their home address along with any clubs they belong to.

For someone who knows where to look and has reason to, this kind of data is easy to find. Be extremely careful about the information you and your family post online and take action to remove anything that could attract and assist the debt collectors.


Discovery in a Credit Card Lawsuit

If, after all of your attempts to avoid a lawsuit fail and you are indeed served with a summons, collection agencies employ numerous tactics to trick the consumer. During the pre-trial Discovery phase of the lawsuit, each party can request information and evidence from the opposing party. This may include answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents and requests for admissions and depositions.

When answering Discovery, be extremely careful that you don’t unintentionally incriminate yourself. By using confusing questions and repeating questions in different ways, that’s exactly what the collection agency is hoping for. They may ask something directly and then later disguise the same question in a different format, hoping that this time, you answer differently.

Phrases within the interrogatories such as ‘Please explain’, ‘please give the date’ and ‘please state’ are all expressions to be alert to. They are triggers that could lead to you disclosing incriminating evidence. If you are feeling unsure about how to respond to your Discovery, The Defendant’s Package is full of helpful tips and examples to help you avoid the pitfalls.

These are just a handful of the tricks that debt collection agencies use to get their money. Remember that they are hoping that you will make it easy for them to collect it and unfortunately, all too many people do just that and let them walk in and collect. Do your research and do not make it so easy for them to do that to you.